Scoliosis – definition, causes and treatment

In this articles I’ll be addressing the definition, causes and treatments of scoliosis.


Scoliosis is where the spine rotates and bends producing a side – curve [1]. It can occur at any age but is most common in adolescents [1].

It can improve with treatment. However, there aren’t always symptoms with scoliosis so treatment isn’t always warranted [1].


Signs of scoliosis include:
– leaning to one side
– ribs or scapula sticking out
– one shoulder is higher
– one part of the pelvis is higher
– clothes don’t fit well [1].

It’s best to take your child to your GP, osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist or sports therapist if you suspect they have a scoliosis [1].


Most cases are idiopathic which means the cause is not known. This type isn’t caused by external factors, people usually have a genetic predisposition to it [1].

Less commonly, scoliosis may be formed:

– In utero, where the bones of spine form together in an unusual way (congenital) [1].

– Due to a neurological or muscular condition – this is called neuromuscular scoliosis [1].

– with age. This is called degenerative scoliosis which effects older people.


This depends on the prognosis which is determined by an examination.

Casts and braces

A plaster cast or back brace may be fitted to infants to help their spine grow correctly [1].

A back brace is sometimes use for adolescents to improve spinal growth [1]. Surgery is sometimes required to improve the growth of the spine. Spinal straightening can be done when the individual has stopped growing [1].

Physical therapy treatment

Osteopathic treatment of scoliosis aims at keeping the facet joints mobile; freeing any restrictions, increasing the neurological input to the area and boosting circulation.  Muscular tension and general posture can be improved [2].
A study conducted in 2010 [3] states that osteopathy has no effect on the degree of the curve or the pain associated with idiopathic scoliosis, however the treatments weren’t clearly explained and the competency  of the osteopath wasn’t stated. 3 treatments were give including the initial consultation which may not be applicable to every osteopath [3].

An exercise and stretch routine given by an osteopath or physical therapist can help strengthen muscles and reduce pain [4]. The practitioner should ensure compliance by suggesting an exercise routine.

Aqua therapy may help with strength and mobility of the spine [4]. The resistance that the water provides means that muscles have to work harder and the decrease in gravity causes less stress on the joints [4]. However, patients usually see going to a pool as a laborious activity.


Turmeric and ginger are anti- inflammatory food [4]. By eating a high consumption of these foods it can reduce the scoliosis associated pain [4]. Drinking 2-3 litres of water can help keep spinal discs hydrated [4].


The idea of a brace is to reduce movement in the back which allows the individual to perform activities of daily living painlessly [4].


Adjustments performed by an osteopath, physio or chiro should be done if no degeneration is suspected. It can help keep the facet joints mobile and decrease pain. However, some people do not find adjustments relieving.

Contrast hydrotherapy

Cold and/or heat therapy can provide pain relief and reduce inflammation. Cold particularly can reduce inflammation and heat relaxes muscles. The combination of the two helps circulation and will in turn reduce inflammation [4]. Most up to date research suggests hot for 2 minutes cold for 1 alternating 6 times finishing on cold [5]. Some research says that 1 minute hot [32 C] alternating with 1 minute cold [15 C] for up to 18 minutes is effective [6].


Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. There are four different types; the most common being idiopathic (unknown cause). There may be no associated pain or disruption to life. However, treatment should be carried out regardless to prevent pain occurring and optimise fiction. There are many treatment options available. There is conflicting evidence on the efficacy of such treatments.

If you would like any clarification on any of the above, or another issue, please contact me using the “contact” section of the website.