Scoliosis Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Brandi W. Cortright

Scoliosis pain can be managed through various treatments, depending on the individual's specific needs and the severity of the condition. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate therapy for your situation.

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine twists and curves to the side, affecting people of any age, but most often starts in children aged 10 to 15. Scoliosis pain can be caused by various factors, including pressure on spinal discs, facet joints, muscle pain, nerve irritation, and joint strain. Symptoms of scoliosis may include a visibly curved spine, leaning to one side, uneven shoulders, one shoulder or hip sticking out, and ribs sticking out on one side




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Table Of Contents

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is most simply defined as a lateral, side to side, rather than front to back curvature of the spine that sometimes causes pain. When looked at from the front or from behind, the spine should be perfectly straight. However, the scoliotic spine curves either to one side or first to one side and then to the other.

You should keep in mind that although the sideways curvature that defines scoliosis marks a deviation, the spine does not normally look straight from all vantage points. When viewed from the side, the spine normally has several curves.

Most cases of this condition are mild. However, some kids grow spine deformities, which get worse as the children grow. The severe state of this condition can be disabling. This is so since the spinal curvature can minimize the amount of space that exists within the chest.

Is Pain a Symptom of Scoliosis?

The answer depends on the person. Most youngsters with the condition claim they did have discomfort before they were treated with a brace or with surgery.

Typical complaints are occasional tingling or numbness in the legs, aching in one or more areas of the spine, and sharp scoliosis pain around the neck and shoulders.

In later life, adults with scoliosis can experience a great deal of pain, particularly because of breathing problems, ruptured discs, or arthritic conditions that can develop because of scoliosis.

Degenerative adult side curvature of the spine occurs when the combination of worsening of the spine and age leads to the progression of side curving of the spine.

The condition starts after the age of forty. It is normally related to osteoporosis in older female patients. Osteoporosis usually weakens the bones, making them deteriorate.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

In Children

Scoliosis normally appears when a kid is between eight and ten years of age. The symptoms may worsen as he or she grows. Every kid with this condition is different. While others may present obvious symptoms, others may not. The most popular symptoms in children are:

  • The flanks of the back look different in height when bending forward.
  • There is a difference in the manner the arms hang alongside the body when standing straight.
  • Differences in shoulder blade position or height.
  • Difference in hip position or height.
  • The head may not be positioned at the center with the rest of the body.
  • Difference in shoulder height

Changes in bladder and bowel habits, leg pain, and back pain are not usually related to idiopathic scoliosis. If your child is experiencing these kinds of symptoms, then he or she would need immediate medical evaluation.

In Adults

Adults who have scoliosis may have had it since they were young. Degenerative disorder of the spine can cause sideway curvature of the spinal column. Every so often, the first symptom of the Scoliosis in adults is back pain.

However, the pain may not be from Scoliosis, but from bone damage in the spine. As the back curves, this can exert pressure on the surrounding nerves, causing symptoms such as numbness and weakness.

The most popular symptoms in adults are:

  • Bone spurs
  • Loss of height
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tired feeling
  • Problem standing up straight
  • Trouble walking
  • Pain in the legs, weakness, and numbness
  • Bump in the lumbar back
  • Uneven hips and/or shoulders

Causes of Scoliosis


We have seen that scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves sideways, and idiopathic scoliosis means that the cause is unknown. The spine is made up of several small bones referred to as vertebrae. They are separated by discs that allow the spine to bend.

This structure of vertebrae and discs is supported along its length by muscles and ligaments. Many people have a slight sideways curvature of their spine, and in most cases, this is considered normal.

Idiopathic scoliosis is defined as a curve of more than ten degrees. The curvature is often shaped like the letter S or C, and the spine may also be twisted. In this condition, the vertebrae twist and curve.

If you have this condition, you may have one shoulder blade higher than the other, or it may be more prominent. Your hip may also be higher on one side.

To check if you have idiopathic scoliosis, bend over from the waist with legs and arms straight and the palms of your hand together. If you have the condition, your ribs may be more prominent on one side when they are viewed from the back.


This is an uneven spinal curvature that is caused by the disorders of the muscular system, spinal cord, and brain. Muscles and nerves are incapable of maintaining appropriate alignment or balance of the spinal column.

Neuromuscular curves are normally linked with pelvic obliquity. This is a condition in which the pelvis is tilted unevenly with one side being higher compared to the other. This condition is more likely to create curves that develop into adulthood.

Children who suffer from Scoliosis may not experience pain. Most kids with this condition have poor coordination and poor balance of their head, neck, and trunk. Neuromuscular scoliosis can lead to thoracic insufficiency syndrome. The patient may also experience problems sitting.


Congenital structural defects may cause a number of curves. These curves are often complex and may require special imaging techniques for assessment. This condition is normally caused by a failure of formation or segmentation.

The progression of the curve is related to the type of bony defect. Curves that are most likely to progress are those with unilateral unsegmented bars that restrict growth on one side while the opposite side grows normally.


This is a hereditary hamartomatous disorder of neural crest derivation. These hamartomatous tissues may appear in any organ system of the body. The most widely described clinical forms of neurofibromatosis are the peripheral and central types.


Develops due to a specific connective tissue disorder, such as Marfan’s syndrome, homocystinuria, and Ehlers Danlos syndrome.

These conditions can cause severely progressive curves and should be treated aggressively if the patient’s general health allows.


Traumatic scoliosis can be caused either by bony lesions, such as fractures and dislocations or by soft tissue lesions, such as burns and postempyema.


This is a lateral deviation of the spine that typically develops after 50 years of age. There are several types of this condition.

The first one is type-1 adult scoliosis, which is a primary degenerative, mostly on the basis of a discs and /or facet joint arthritis, affecting those structures asymmetrically.

The second one is type-2 adult scoliosis, which is progression of adolescent sideways curvature of the spine in adulthood.

The third one is type-3 adult scoliosis, which is a secondary sideways curve of the spine mostly on the basis of osteoporosis.

Treatment of Scoliosis

In Children

Most cases of idiopathic sideways curve of the spine occur between age ten and the time a kid grows up. The condition is rarely painful, and small curves time and again go unnoticed.

In many cases, the curvature of the spine is small. Therefore, treatment may not be required. However, children who have larger curves may have to undergo surgery or wear a brace to restore normal posture.

In Adults

You will not probably require surgery if you are diagnosed with this condition. According to research, only a small number of adult patients require major reconstructive surgery to get rid of Scoliosis pain.

Usually, treatment is aimed at alleviating the symptoms instead of correcting the bend in the spinal column. However, major treatment may involve physical therapy and chiropractic care to strengthen as well as stabilize the spine.

The treatment plan may also include epidural injections or anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve Scoliosis pain.

Can this Condition Make Your Back Hurt?

In most cases, scoliosis may not cause pain in teens and children. Any back pain that may be present will be due to pressure and stress exerted on the facet joints, ligaments, muscles, or spinal discs by the curvature of the spine.

Can Mild Scoliosis Be Painful?

According to research, a mild form of the condition is not typically painful. The majority of adolescents may not experience any related pain. If you are a teen, severe pain is alarming and you may have other associated abnormalities to your musculature and spine.

Mild cases, as well as mild early stages of more severe cases, have no effect on the functioning of the spine and back. Indeed, most people with scoliosis function perfectly normal.

Mild scoliosis does not interfere with the spine’s stability or flexibility, or its ability to bear weight or to protect the spinal cord. So, in its early stages and in minor cases, the condition has no further effects than to cause asymmetry or deformity in the shape of the spine.

In Conclusion

Scoliosis can cause pain due to irregular forces and nerve compression. Mild cases can benefit from nonsurgical treatments, while severe cases may require bracing or surgery along with pain management approaches.

The location or size of spine curvature does not entirely foretell whether or not you may have the symptoms. As you grow older, your spine starts to deteriorate. This may lead to curving of the spine.

Some individuals may never present any symptoms. While others might experience back pain, tingling, numbness, or leg pain.

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