Adult scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. The spine appears typically as straight when viewed from behind. With scoliosis, the spine shows an abnormal sideways curve that can be mild to severe. Scoliosis is determined when the curvature of the spine measures 10 degrees or greater on an X-ray.

While scoliosis most frequently occurs in children and teenagers, it can also be diagnosed in adults. With adults, it may be the result of a curve that has existed since youth that is progressing. It also can result from worn-out joints and spinal discs, osteoporosis, or a hereditary condition.

The sideways spinal curve of adult scoliosis can lead to an uneven distribution of weight that can cause pain and neurological problems, including weakness. Adult scoliosis is not just disfiguring but can be disabling as well, as any spinal deformity that causes an individual’s body to compensate in unnatural ways can lead to pain and discomfort.

Scoliosis is different from kyphosis, where the spine has an abnormal, forward-oriented curvature.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Most cases of adult scoliosis don’t cause symptoms.

When symptoms do evidence themselves in adults, most commonly it is back pain accompanied by a visible bulge on the back at the origin of this pain and pain down the legs. Other symptoms may include:

  • An odd alignment of the shoulder blades or hips.
  • Fatigue
  • A loss of height
  • A feeling of fullness when, in fact, the stomach is empty

Video Overview: Scoliosis