Scoliosis Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of scoliosis include shoulders that are at different heights, rib cages that are at different heights, and a waist that seems lopsided. Severe spinal curves can cause symptoms like heart or lung problems, pain, decreased self-image, and premature death. Pain is a scoliosis symptom that is seen more commonly in adults.

An Overview of Scoliosis Signs and Symptoms

When there is a sideways curvature of the spine (or backbone), it is known as scoliosis. Out of every 1,000 children, three to five of them will develop spinal curves that are considered large enough to need treatment. Many children are sent to the doctor by a school scoliosis screening program. These children usually have no symptoms other than a very mild spinal curve that does not need scoliosis treatment.
 

Common Symptoms of Scoliosis

A person with scoliosis may have any of these symptoms:
 
  • Shoulders are at different heights
  • One or both shoulder blades stick out
  • Rib cages are at different heights
  • The waist seems lopsided
  • One hip appears higher or more prominent than the other
  • Leaning to one side.
 

Pain as a Scoliosis Symptom

For children with scoliosis, pain is rarely a symptom. On the other hand, pain is a common symptom for adults with scoliosis.
 

Severe Symptoms

Severe curves (greater than 90 degrees) can cause severe symptoms that include:
 
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Pain
  • Decreased self-image
  • Premature death.
 

Scoliosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

In order to make a scoliosis diagnosis, doctors will ask you questions about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order a number of tests.

(Click Scoliosis Diagnosis for more information about diagnosing scoliosis.)
Written by/reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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