Scoliosis, or abnormal curving of the spine, affects about 3% of people. Mild cases
may not affect daily living. But severe cases can be painful and limit normal activity.
The curves in our spine help the upper body maintain proper balance and
alignment. However, when there are abnormal side-to-side curves in the spinal
column, we refer to this as scoliosis.
There are many causes of scoliosis, including congenital spine deformities (those
present at birth, either inherited or caused by the environment), genetic conditions,
neuromuscular problems, and limb length inequality. Other causes for scoliosis
include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy,
and tumours. More than 80% of scoliosis cases, however, have no known cause.
Symptoms for scoliosis will vary with each individual. However, some symptoms
may include the following:
Shoulders at different heights—one shoulder blade more prominent than the other
Head not centred directly above the pelvis
Appearance of a raised, prominent hip
Rib cages at different heights
Changes in look or texture of skin overlying the spine
Leaning of entire body to one side
Rib prominence when bent over
A doctor may diagnose scoliosis with a diagnostic exam such as an x-ray, spinal
radiograph, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
of the spine. The curvature of the spine is then measured and expressed in terms
of degrees. Generally, a curve is considered significant if it is greater than 25 to 30
degrees. Curves exceeding 45 to 50 degrees are considered more severe.