Scoliosis is a condition of the spinal column characterised by lateral twisting.

The spine has four curves in it – cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral, which in all look like an S-shape from the side. From the front, it looks straight, with no curves. If curves are formed here, you may well have scoliosis. Usually, the twisting starts in one part of the spine where the vertebrae become misaligned – they incline and rotate around each other to keep the body straight. This may be seen on any part of the spinal column, but the most affected is the thoracic segment.

In most cases, the cause is unknown, which is why the term ‘idiopathic scoliosa’ is also used. It may be caused by some other illness – congenital defects in the spinal column, cerebral palsy, pathologies of the connective tissue, tumours, etc. According to some experts, there may be a hereditary component to it. It’s seen more often in girls than boys and usually between ages 10-15.

Scoliosis is a chronic condition which may get worse over time.

The severity of scoliosis ranges from light to very severe. There’s a four-degree scale to measure it by taking the angle of curvature:

  • 5-10 degrees
  • 11-30 degrees
  • 31-61 degrees
  • more than 61 degrees

Apart from lateral twisting of the spinal column, a rotation of the vertebrae around each other and the connective vertebrae form secondary curves.

Mild scoliosis may be asymptomatic (not show any symptoms), while more severe forms restrict physical movement to a high degree.

The most frequent symptoms are:

  • One shoulder raised higher than the other
  • The thorax looks asymmetrical
  • One hip is higher than the other
  • The pelvis is twisted and makes walking more difficult

Some of the most common complaints are:

  • Pain in the back
  • Muscles get tired more easily
  • Radiculopathies
  • Problems with breathing due to deformity in the thorax
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Problems with walking

Diagnosis is made by a specialist following a functional check-up and an X-ray scan. The angle of curvature is assessed (the Cobb angle) and the location of the curve. Where the angle is up to 20 degrees, physical exercises to strengthen the muscles are the main treatment used, as well as check-ups twice a year.

Between 20 and 40 degrees a corset may be prescribed along with physical exercises to get the spinal column in the right position. The corset will be tailored to your individual needs, depending on the type of curve, its location, shape, your age and the part of the body affected. Where the angle of curvature is above 40 degrees, an operation is needed to treat scoliosis.