Many people assume that scoliosis begins at a young age, but the onset can happen at any age.  Local lore about what causes scoliosis should be disregarded. Childhood sports injuries cannot cause scoliosis, nor can carrying heavy backpacks or bad posture. Unfortunately, it is unclear what causes scoliosis.

Mild scoliosis may have few or no symptoms and can go undetected for years particularly in adults.  School screenings are often unable to spot the initial warning signs of scoliosis in children.

What is Scoliosis?

The spine has a natural curve that helps you bend and move.  When you have scoliosis, your spine curves more than it should.  It forms a C or S-shape. The angle of the curve may be small, large, or somewhere in between.  But anything that measures more than 10-degrees is considered scoliosis.

Usually, the curve is mild and doesn’t affect your appearance or health. Yet it can get worse over time.  Typically scoliosis affects the mid-back area and lower back (lumbar) portions of the spine.

What are the Risk Factors?

Although relatively little is known about the risk factors that can cause abnormal spine curvature to develop, there are a few risk factors associated with a less common type of scoliosis, called structural scoliosis.  In structural scoliosis, the curve of the spine is rigid and cannot be reversed.

These causes include:

Also, scoliosis appears to involve hereditary factors, because the disorder tends to run in families.

Adult Scoliosis vs. Juvenile Scoliosis

Symptoms differ in kids and adults.  Because scoliosis can occur in kids and adults, it is important to know what to look for.


Older adults who develop scoliosis typically have adult degenerative scoliosis.  In this form, degeneration, or aging of the discs and joints in the spine occurs asymmetrically, causing tilting and even slipping between the vertebrae. As this degeneration descends from one level to the next, a curve of the spine can develop. This form of scoliosis primarily affects the lumbar spine.  As you get older, wear and tear damages the bones and joints in your spine. The discs that sit between them begin to break down. As this happens, the discs lose height and start to tilt. This causes the spine to curve.

Scoliosis causes these symptoms in adults:

  • Uneven shoulders and/or hips
  • Bump in the lower back
  • Numbness, weakness, or pain in the legs
  • Trouble walking
  • Trouble standing up straight
  • Tired feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of height
  • Bone spurs: bony bumps in the joints of the spine from bone and joint damage
  • Feeling full quickly while you eat. This is because your spine is putting pressure on your belly.


Early prevention depends mainly on parents. A home scoliosis test should be performed if you believe your child is at risk of developing the condition.  Scoliosis is most likely to afflict:

  • Kids ages 8 to 14 (during growth spurts).
  • Girls, who are eight times more likely to get scoliosis than boys.
  • Those with thin or lean body shape.
  • A child whose parent or sibling has scoliosis.

Every child with scoliosis is different.  Some don’t have any symptoms. Others have very obvious ones, including:

  • Their shoulders are two different heights.
  • Their head doesn’t look centered with the rest of the body.
  • One hip is higher than the other or sticks out.
  • Ribs are pushed out.
  • When standing straight, the child’s arms don’t hang down straight next to the body.
  • When bending forward, the two sides of the back are different heights.

The symptoms might worsen as the child grows, so it’s important to consult a doctor right away.


Early detection is key. If the curve has already progressed to near 30-degrees, that’s far too late for early intervention. Surgery is necessary when the magnitude of the curve exceeds 45-degrees and when no other treatment has worked to prevent the progression of curving of the spine.

Chiropractors can address symptoms or issues a patient may be experiencing associated with scoliosis, preventing further degradation of the spine. Although traditional chiropractic procedures do not correct, cure, or reverse scoliosis— unfortunately, there is no cure for it— a chiropractor specializing in scoliosis understands the complexities of a sclerotic spine and will be able to help treat mild scoliosis.

Want to find out how to maintain a healthy spine? Contact us to find out which therapy is right for you.  With a team of skilled chiropractors focused on the total health of your spine, South Orange Chiropractic Center is committed to finding the right solution to alleviate your back pain.