Scoliosis - What Is Scoliosis and What Can I Do About It?

You might be wondering what scoliosis is, why do people get scoliosis or how you can treat it.

You might've had symptoms of one sided back pain, difficulty bending or twisting to one side, and pain with standing or sitting in one position for too long.

Well you can rest easy knowing that we see scoliosis all the time in our physiotherapy clinics, our team have extensive experience and we want to make sure that you are equipped to deal with it yourself as best as you can.

To help, we are going to look at:

  • What scoliosis is
  • The prognosis
  • How to diagnose it
  • How to treat it

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a physical condition and a term that is bandied around a bit, so it is time to clear the air! 

Scoliosis is, quite simply, an abnormal sideways curve of the spine.

It can present as an asymmetrical (one-sided) lateral and rotational curvature of the spine.

Looking from the back, a normal, healthy spine should look straight (like the picture below, on the right).

When a person has scoliosis, they will have an abnormal sideways curve that makes the spine look crooked

scoliosis back pain terrace physio plus


Is scoliosis Common?

To put it simply - mild scoliosis is common, yes.

But severe scoliosis is fairly rare. 

Scoliosis tends to develop in late childhood. About one in every two people is thought to have mild scoliosis, which is painless, does not worsen and does not need treatment. So, with that in mind, it pays not to react too soon or become anxious too early. 

However, severe scoliosis can be a quite painful and debilitating condition that tends to worsen with age.

About three children out of every 1000 have scoliosis that needs medical treatment.

The surgery rate is approximately one per 1000 of those who actually have it (incredibly low!) 

(You can read about what we think of back surgery in a different article - hint: we are not huge fans!)


Prognosis of scoliosis (that's a tongue-twister!)

The cause is usually unknown.

It can be due to congenital abnormalities (genetic problems), disease or trauma to the skeletal system that causes a permanent structural twisting.

Scoliosis can also be non-structural and originate with postural imbalances and soft tissue injury. This is more easily treated or even reversed.

It can also develop in older adults from wear and tear of the spine and from diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis and degenerative discs or prior back surgery.

Ageing, loss of core muscle strength and being overweight can twist the spine and cause pain. But ususally, it can be managed or completely fixed. 

Check out the difference in the muscles on either side of the spine in the picture below:


How to Diagnose Scoliosis

Scoliosis is diagnosed by using x-rays and careful physical examination. Factors that are assessed during the examination include:

  • The shape of the curve (for example, an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape)
  • The location of the curve (in the upper back, lower back or both)
  • Whether the curve leans towards the left or right side
  • The angle of the curve (it needs to be significant to actually cause a problem). 

Treatment of Scoliosis

Often the right type of exercise and movement re-education can improve many physical problems, even with something as scary, potentially painful and debilitating as scoliosis.

Physiotherapy can assist in building your core and postural muscles as well as helping with posture and ergonomics (like how you carry things or sit at a desk.)

They might also employ manual therapy by stretching tight muscles and helping to strengthen weak ones.

It is important for your body to “remember” how postural realignment feels and to maintain this body awareness until it becomes second nature. Treatment may include:

  • Massage
  • Joint mobilisations
  • Taping
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stability and posture program
  • Education
  • Positional adjustments



If you are struggling with back pain and think you may have scoliosis, it is worth contacting your local physiotherapists who are familiar with treating scoliosis, and let them help to get you moving well and feeling great!

What you want to look for is an experienced team, with a proven track record of evidence-based treatments and a long list of happy clients.

Our Facebook page is a great way to check this out. And, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch at