Tag: scoliosis

Scoliosis – Can I Play Sport?

Physical exercise is a vital component of overall health, even for those with scoliosis. At the UK Scoliosis Clinic, we advocate for an active lifestyle during scoliosis treatment. Despite common misconceptions, scoliosis doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding sports altogether – although you do need to ensure your exercise program is not slowing down your treatment.


How to Choose Sports for Scoliosis

While participating in sports and physical activities may not treat scoliosis, they can actually help to address some of the associated muscle weaknesses and imbalances which often come with the condition. Tailored scoliosis-specific exercises are ideal, but any core-strengthening activity could be considered valuable as part of a broader treatment program. Exercise should be approached cautiously to avoid worsening existing imbalances however, so professional guidance is key. In general, we can point to some popular exercises which can be highly beneficial, as well as some which can be problematic.


Good Sports for Scoliosis

  1. Swimming – A low-impact, full-body workout that enhances strength and cardiovascular fitness. Opt for strokes that maintain a neutral spine position, and avoid high-diving.
  2. Cycling – A low-impact sport providing excellent cardiovascular benefits. Limit off-road cycling to avoid high-impact jolting that may compress the spine.
  3. Cross-Country Skiing – Minimises shock to the vertebrae and engages both sides of the body, promoting a strong and balanced spine. Skiing machines at the gym are suitable alternatives for those not located near a slope.
  4. Strength Training – When performed under professional guidance, strength training can strengthen muscles supporting the spine. Emphasise proper form to prevent worsening scoliosis.
  5. Yoga – Beneficial for adults with scoliosis, offering calming effects and potential fitness improvement. Some limited research suggests yoga could assist in treating scoliosis, making it a valuable complement to targeted exercises.
  6. Stretching – Essential for relieving tension, restoring range of motion, and counteracting the spine’s curvature. Be mindful of safe stretches and avoid those that hyper-extend or severely rotate the spine.


Bad Sports for Scoliosis

Certain sports, due to their nature, may load the body unevenly or stress the spine in ways that can worsen scoliosis. While participation is not necessarily ruled out, caution and consultation with a practitioner are advisable.

  1. Gymnastics, Ballet, Dance – These activities, which involve spine-contorting movements, may promote scoliosis. Caution is advised, especially for individuals at risk of developing or already having scoliosis.
  2. Trampoline or Impact Sports – While jumping on a trampoline strengthens leg muscles, it may worsen lumbar scoliosis due to downward landing forces. Impact sports like rugby pose inherent spinal injury risks and are best avoided.
  3. Strength Training with Spinal Compression – Heavy lifting can compress the spine over time. Proper guidance from a scoliosis professional is essential to exercise safely without unnecessary compression.
  4. Tennis, Javelin, Skating – One-sided sports that stress one side of the body more than the other, potentially increasing scoliosis. Balancing with complementary exercises may be appropriate.


Can I Play?

Sports and physical activities are great fun and a key aspect of overall health. Participation in sports is of course encouraged for individuals with scoliosis, however it’s critical that the chosen exercises align with their treatment program.




My Child Has Scoliosis – DON’T Do This!

When you find out your child has Scoliosis the desire to provide the best possible care can be both overwhelming and perplexing. Scoliosis – despite strides in awareness in recent years – is still the subject of widespread misunderstanding, often leaving parents uncertain about the next steps. While swift action is crucial, steering clear of certain pitfalls is equally important. Here are three key aspects parents should avoid when navigating the complexities of childhood scoliosis.


The Problem with Passivity

Given the lesser-known nature of scoliosis many (probably most) parents find themselves unaware of anyone who has experienced the condition. This lack of awareness may create a false sense of non-urgency, potentially delaying intervention. Years ago, the prevailing belief was that surgery was the sole effective treatment for scoliosis, fostering a “wait and see” attitude. However, this approach is problematic, as scoliosis rarely resolves on its own. Seeking prompt consultation with a scoliosis specialist is paramount, ensuring that the condition is actively monitored and addressed. Waiting, in any capacity, is not a viable option when it comes to scoliosis management.


The Price of Ignoring Costs

The financial aspect of non-surgical scoliosis treatment in the UK poses a significant challenge, with limited options available through the NHS. While consulting with a GP to explore local resources is advisable, parents must prepare for potential costs associated with private care. Ignoring or underestimating these costs can lead to irresponsible decision-making. It’s essential to consider two critical factors: the severity of the existing scoliotic curve and the extended duration of treatment. Treatment success diminishes with larger curves, making early intervention more cost-effective. Moreover, viewing costs as a monthly investment over the treatment period provides a more realistic perspective. In some cases, expenses might serve only to delay an inevitable surgery, emphasising the need for informed decision-making based on individual expectations and likely outcomes.


Overlooking Mental Health

The emotional toll of scoliosis should not be underestimated, especially considering its prevalence among teens and young adults. Choosing the right treatment environment involves deciding between group-based and individualised settings. Group settings lack privacy but may offer some peer support, while one-on-one settings ensure privacy without immediate peer involvement. The decision should align with the child’s preferences, emphasising the importance of mental well-being during treatment. The UK Scoliosis Clinic, for instance, prioritises a private one-on-one environment, recognising the impact of a calm and private space on clinical outcomes.


Getting help

If you’re concerned about Scoliosis, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we offer Scoliosis consultations online as well as at the clinic with no obligation to take up treatment, whatever you do – be active!



What’s The Difference Between Sciatica, And Scoliosis?

While regular readers of this blog will probably know that Sciatica and Scoliosis are very different issues, it’s not really that surprising that the question is one of the most searched on Google! After all, both conditions can cause back pain, both sound similar and both are somewhat mysterious in terms of their real cause. For those who don’t yet know the difference, this blog is for you – while these two conditions are often associated with back pain, they are quite different in nature and require different treatment approaches.


What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the legs, becomes compressed or irritated. This compression can be caused by a large number of conditions – common ones are a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or other conditions that put pressure on the nerve.

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg. This pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg. Sciatica very often occurs alongside low back pain which can make it tricky to separate the two.

Treatment for sciatica usually involves a combination of pain relief medication, physical therapy, and exercise. Manual therapies such as Chiropractic also have an excellent track record in reducing sciatica and preventing it from coming back by addressing underlying issues, such as poor posture.


What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve to the side. It can be caused by a number of factors, including genetic factors, muscle weakness, and uneven leg length. In some cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown.

The most common symptom of scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, which can be visible when standing or bending over. Other symptoms may include back pain, muscle stiffness, and fatigue. In severe cases, scoliosis can also affect lung function and mobility.

Treatment for scoliosis depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may not require any treatment, while more severe cases may require bracing or surgery to correct the curvature of the spine.


Differences between Sciatica and Scoliosis

While both sciatica and scoliosis can cause back pain, there are several key differences between these two conditions.

Causes: Sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, while scoliosis is caused by an abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is also actually a condition of the spine, whereas the term “Sciatica” really describes the irritation of the Sciatic nerve – this may often be due to another condition affecting the spine, but there is a slight difference.

Symptoms: The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg, while the most common symptom of scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can cause back pain, but upper and mid back pain is more common than low back pain.

Treatment: Treatment for sciatica usually involves pain relief medication in the short term, manual therapies in the medium term and work to improve posture in the long term, while treatment for scoliosis depends on the severity of the condition and may include bracing or surgery. Treating Sciatica is notoriously tricky  – some cases resolve in weeks, and many can go on for months. In Scoliosis, however, treatment continues over a very long period – often 10+ years.

Prognosis: The prognosis for sciatica is generally good, and most people recover within a few weeks or months. The main issue with Sciatica is that without making changes to the issues which caused the flare-up, it’s quite likely to come back. The prognosis for scoliosis depends on the severity of the condition and will require treatment until a young person has reached skeletal maturity.

Prevention: Going through an entire life without experiencing sciatica is possible, but in today’s world probably not likely. Nonetheless, there are common sense steps one can take to minimise issues with Sciatica. Scoliosis is (almost certainly) a genetic condition and not something a person can avoid through their own actions.


Scoliosis and Sciatica

Sciatica and scoliosis are two distinct conditions that can both cause back pain. While sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, scoliosis is caused by an abnormal curvature of the spine. The good news is that today there are multiple options for treating both conditions!



Is Walking A Good Exercise For People With Scoliosis?

It’s well known that exercise is a great way to stay healthy whatever other conditions you may have – it’s all now well known that some sports and activities (especially those which focus only on one side of the body) may not be the best choice for those with Scoliosis.

We get many questions about exercise and which are the best options for people with Scoliosis – but the most important one is this, is plain old walking a good choice? The short answer is yes. Walking is generally considered a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis – it works both sides of the body evenly, it’s easy, does not put too much strain on the body, can be done with your brace on and is surprisingly effective!


The benefits of walking for people with scoliosis

Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips, and back. This can be particularly helpful for people with scoliosis, as weak muscles in these areas can contribute to poor posture and spinal curvature. Walking also helps improve balance, coordination, and flexibility, which are important for maintaining good spinal health.

In addition to physical benefits, walking can also have mental health benefits. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well-being. For people with scoliosis, who may experience pain and discomfort as a result of their condition, walking can provide a natural way to manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.


Precautions to take when walking with scoliosis

While walking is generally considered safe for people with scoliosis, there are a few precautions you should take to minimise any potential risks.

First, it is important to work with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or orthopaedic specialist, to develop a safe and effective exercise program. They can help you identify any limitations or areas of weakness that may need to be addressed before starting an exercise program. This is less about the way you walk and more about taking sensible steps to avoid things like walking with a heavy backpack etc – each case is different here, but follow any relevant guidelines you are given.

It is also important to wear supportive shoes and to choose a safe walking route. Avoid uneven or rocky terrain that could increase your risk of falling or injuring yourself.

Another important consideration is posture. Good posture is important for maintaining a healthy spine, and people with scoliosis may need to work on improving their posture as part of their exercise program. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down, your chest lifted, and your chin level.

It is also important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your walking sessions over time. This can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of overexertion.


Alternative exercises for people with scoliosis

While walking is generally considered a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis, it may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may find that other exercises are more beneficial or more comfortable for them.

For example, swimming and water aerobics are often recommended for people with scoliosis, as they provide a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints and muscles. Yoga and Pilates can also be beneficial, as they focus on building strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which are important for maintaining good spinal health.

Ultimately, the best exercise program for people with scoliosis will depend on their individual needs and limitations. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a safe and effective exercise program that takes into account any medical conditions, injuries, or other factors that may affect your ability to exercise.


Is walking a good choice for those with Scoliosis?

Walking can be a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis, as long as certain precautions are taken. Walking can help strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips, and back, improve balance and coordination, and provide a natural way to manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.


How Fast Does Scoliosis Get Worse?

Scoliosis is a progressive condition – this means it tends to worsen with age, but the speed at which it does this can vary. Scoliosis is known to accelerate during growth spurts, and worsens more quickly in young people than adults. Then again, a form of scoliosis, known as “de-novo scoliosis” is common in older adults, and can also progress quite rapidly.

Each Scoliosis case is unique, and predicting growth rates depends on factors like severity, rigidity, and family history. Broadly speaking, Juvenile scoliosis over 30 degrees can rapidly progress, usually necessitating surgery, while 21 to 30-degree curves may lead to surgery or disability if left untreated[1][2].

Acting quickly and proactively is crucial to halt scoliosis progression and correct curvature before surgery is required.


Don’t wait and see

Research by the British Scoliosis Society reveals that even during the consultation process, scoliosis curves can progress considerably. In a 2018 study, patients waiting for scoliosis surgery experienced rapid curve progression, with some requiring more extensive surgery than initially planned. The study included curves ranging from 17° to 90°, emphasising the need for timely intervention[3].

This shows why “wait and see” is such a bad approach to scoliosis treatment – this study alone highlighted the impact of delayed consultation, turning smaller curves into larger, more challenging cases. This is all the more important when you consider that today, with modern approach to treatment, something like a 30-degree curve has an excellent prognosis with conservative treatments like scolibrace,


Older Adults and Scoliosis

In general, Scoliosis in adults can be described as slightly more predictable. Adult scoliosis cases tend to progress at a steadier rate, but an additional risk arises with age – degenerative or de-novo scoliosis. Caused by wear and tear on spinal discs, this form is common among older adults, affecting about 30% of those over 60[4].

De-novo scoliosis progresses more slowly than childhood or adolescent scoliosis but faster than the very gradual development seen after reaching skeletal maturity and before age 60. De-novo Scoliosis can significantly impact quality of life. Patients often experience back and leg pain, making walking or standing difficult. Standard conservative treatments may not provide relief, and surgery may not be an option due to conditions like osteoporosis.

For these patients, a gentle supportive brace can offer relief, helping them stand more comfortably for longer periods. Early intervention and proper treatment can make a substantial difference in managing degenerative scoliosis in older adults.



Scoliosis progression is not a linear process, it’s unpredictable and that makes taking proactive action as soon as possible all the more important. Waiting for consultation or surgery can lead to rapid and undesirable changes, turning manageable cases into more severe ones. Both young patients with progressive scoliosis and older adults facing degenerative scoliosis require proactive approaches to halt progression, manage symptoms, and improve quality of life.



[1] Charles YP, Daures JP, de Rosa V, Diméglio A. “Progression risk of idiopathic juvenile scoliosis during pubertal growth.” Spine. 2006 Aug 1;31(17):1933-42.

[2] H V Dabke, A Jones, S Ahuja, J Howes, P R Davies. “SHOULD PATIENTS WAIT FOR SCOLIOSIS SURGERY?” Orthopaedic Proceedings. Vol. 88-B, No. SUPP_II.

[3] Angelo G Aulisa et al. “Brace treatment in juvenile idiopathic scoliosis: a prospective study in accordance with the SRS criteria for bracing studies.” Scoliosis. 2014; 9:3. DOI: 10.1186/1748-7161-9-3.

[4] Kebaish KM et al. “Scoliosis in adults aged forty years and older: prevalence and relationship to age, race, and gender.” Spine. 2011 Apr 20;36(9):731-6.

Is Scoliosis Classed As A Disability In The UK?

Scoliosis is an unusual condition since it can have a huge impact on someone’s life – or almost none at all. Many people with small Scoliosis cases never experience any significant disruption, whereas those with severe cures may even find they have trouble getting around. Scoliosis also sits in an unusual category, since it’s still viewed as a condition which is “permanent” even though today it’s often possible to correct it. With this in mind, does Scoliosis count as a disability?


Is Scoliosis a Disaiblity?

In the UK, disabilities tend to be defined not by the condition themselves, but more by the way they impact a person’s life – therefore, whether scoliosis is considered a disability in the UK depends on the severity of the condition and its impact on the person’s daily life.

Under the Equality Act 2010, scoliosis is considered a disability if it has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to perform normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means that the condition has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 12 months. This is already complex since people under treatment for Scoliosis will (hopefully) eventually overcome the condition, but how long this will take is very hard to say!

Because of the way that disabilities are assessed in the UK, it is therefore unlikely that Scoliosis will be counted as a disability on its own – you’ll need to prove that it makes living your life difficult.


Protection from discrimination

Slightly clearer is the position visa-vis The Equality Act 2010 – this act provides legal protection against discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other areas. In most cases, a scoliosis diagnosis would be an item which an employer, for example, would need to take into account as an aspect of ensuring equality. This means that employers, schools, and service providers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of people with scoliosis.

Reasonable adjustments may include making physical adjustments to the workplace or school environment, such as providing ergonomic chairs or desks, allowing for breaks or adjustments to working hours, or providing assistive technology or devices.


Does Scoliosis qualify me for benefits?

People with scoliosis may be eligible for disability benefits in the UK, but only if the condition makes it difficult for them to live their lives normally. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides disability benefits to people who have a health condition or disability that affects their ability to work. The benefits include Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which helps with the extra costs of living with a long-term health condition or disability, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which provides financial support for people who are unable to work due to their health condition or disability.


To be eligible for disability benefits, the person with scoliosis must show that their condition has a significant impact on their ability to work or perform day-to-day activities. The DWP uses a set of criteria to assess the severity of the condition and its impact on the person’s life. If the person meets the criteria, they may be eligible for disability benefits. As you may know, the bar for said benefits is often very high, so sadly it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible unless your Scoliosis has caused significant mobility issues.


Is Scoliosis a disability?

Every scoliosis case is different, and the degree to which it impacts your life will be the biggest factor in deciding if it’s considered a disability and if you can receive benefits or support in the UK. In most cases, having Scoliosis alone won’t be enough to qualify you.

That being said, Under the Equality Act 2010, people with scoliosis are protected from discrimination, and employers, schools, and service providers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs.


How To Stay Comfortable While Wearing A Scoliosis Brace

Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the spine curves abnormally to one side. Scoliosis braces are designed to help correct this curvature by applying pressure to the spine. However, wearing a scoliosis brace can feel uncomfortable, especially during the initial adjustment period. Much like wearing braces on your teeth, it takes a bit of getting used to. Once you’re through this part, however, you can make choices which make wearing a brace easy – or hard. Make your life easy by planning ahead! Let’s look at some of the easiest ways to make wearing a brace work for you.


Find the right fit

The first and most important step to ensure comfort when wearing a scoliosis brace is to find the right fit for the brace itself. A properly fitted brace should be snug but not too tight. If the brace is too tight, it can cause discomfort and even lead to skin irritation or sores. On the other hand, if the brace is too loose, it will not provide the necessary support and correction.

ScoliBrace, the system used at the UK Scoliosis Clinic is designed to fit the wearer like a glove – we measure and custom produce your brace to millimetre tolerances to ensure that it’s just right. Braces like the ScoliBrace also allow some degree of adjustment, so that we can get more life from the brace – it’s important to ensure that whenever your brace is adjusted you test it out for comfort and have it modified if anything is uncomfortable.


Wear a moisture-wicking undershirt

Scoliosis braces, like anything worn on the body, tend to retain heat – in the winter this can be helpful, but in summer it can cause sweating and discomfort, especially during very hot weather. Wearing a moisture-wicking undershirt can help keep the skin dry and prevent chafing or irritation. These undershirts are made of breathable fabric that wicks sweat away from the skin and keeps the body cool.


Use skin protectants

Wearing a scoliosis brace can cause friction and pressure on the skin, leading to skin irritation or sores. This isn’t usually an issue with a properly fitted brace during everyday wear, but if you’re using a lightweight brace like ScoliBrace and leave it on during exercise you might experience some discomfort. Using skin protectants, such as creams or ointments, can help prevent these problems. The protectant forms a barrier between the skin and the brace, reducing friction and pressure.


Practice good hygiene

Practising good hygiene can help prevent skin irritation and infection. It is essential to clean the skin under the brace daily using mild soap and water. Dry the skin thoroughly before putting on the brace since if you do sweat throughout the day the skin can become more prone to soreness.


Wear comfortable clothing

Wearing comfortable clothing can help reduce discomfort when wearing a scoliosis brace. Choose loose-fitting clothes that do not rub against the brace especially when relaxing at home. Avoid wearing tight clothing or clothing with thick seams, as they can cause pressure points and discomfort – this isn’t really to do with the brace – tight-fitting clothes can cause irritation for anyone – but when wearing a brace the effect is often more noticeable.


Stay active

Staying active can help improve comfort when wearing a scoliosis brace. Exercise helps improve muscle strength and flexibility, which can reduce discomfort and improve posture. Consult a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, as some activities may be restricted when wearing a scoliosis brace.


Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration and reduce discomfort when wearing a scoliosis brace. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps, making wearing the brace more uncomfortable. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.



Does poor posture cause Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by an abnormal curvature and twist of the spine, which can result in physical limitations and discomfort. While the exact cause of scoliosis is not fully understood, it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


Can poor posture cause Scoliosis?

One of the environmental factors that is often associated with scoliosis is poor posture – people with scoliosis are often perceived as having poor posture, and many parents worry that poor posture can cause Scoliosis – but can it? The bottom line is no – poor posture does not cause Scoliosis. Poor posture is a common problem that affects many people worldwide – and it can be a painful issue though. Poor posture can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and poor ergonomics – but while Scoliosis might cause someone to appear to have poor posture, there’s no evidence to show that poor posture will lead to Scoliosis.

When we have poor posture, our bodies are not in alignment, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Poor posture can also cause our muscles and joints to work harder than they should, leading to fatigue and discomfort. That “hunched” appearance which used to be associated with teens but seems to apply to almost everyone these days is more characteristic of Kyphosis, rather than Scoliosis – and in extreme cases, poor posture might be caused by Kyphosis, but not Scoliosis.


Is there any relationship between Scoliosis and Poor posture?

Most Scoliosis research focuses on establishing the true cause of Scoliosis, and the best ways to treat it, so there hasn’t been much research into whether poor posture might contribute once the condition already exists. Therefore, while poor posture is not a direct cause of scoliosis, it might be a factor which could contribute to the progression of the condition. When we have poor posture, our spines are not in the proper alignment, which can cause our muscles and ligaments to become strained and weakened, it’s feasible that this might make it more possible for scoliosis to progress.

Many aspects of a Scoliosis treatment plan are aimed at creating balance and strength in the core muscles which support the spine, so while maintaining good posture is important for everyone, it’s fair to say that focusing on good posture is especially important for those with scoliosis. Good posture can help to alleviate some of the painful symptoms which some people experience with scoliosis at the very least.


Maintaining good posture

Scoliosis or not, you can only do yourself a favour by maintaining good posture – Here are some tips:

  1. Stand up straight: When standing, make sure your weight is evenly distributed on both feet, and your shoulders are relaxed.
  2. Sit up straight: When sitting, make sure your back is straight, and your feet are flat on the ground.
  3. Use proper ergonomics: Make sure your desk and chair are at the proper height and distance to promote good posture.
  4. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support the spine, helping to prevent the progression of scoliosis.
  5. Stretch regularly: Regular stretching can help to alleviate the symptoms of scoliosis and improve flexibility.


Treating Scoliosis

Treating Scoliosis is about much more than altering postural imbalances – Scoliosis treatment requires a focus on good nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits as well as a proactive approach such as Bracing. In this regard, there’s a lot we can do to help patients support treatment plans – and much of the advice would be beneficial to almost anyone!

For example, regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support the spine, and eating a balanced diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D can also help to promote strong bones and a healthy spine.

So, while poor posture is not a direct cause of scoliosis, it’s not impossible that it might contribute to the progression of the condition. This being said, maintaining good posture is important for everyone, and might even help with pain relief in those with Scoliosis. By focusing on good nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits, we can care for our spines, with, or without Scoliosis!




How common is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition that affects the curvature of the spine. The spine has a natural curve, backwards and forwards, but in Scoliosis the spine curves excessively from side to side.  The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents. In this blog post, we will explore how common scoliosis is and the different factors that can contribute to the development of the condition.


How Common is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a relatively common condition, with an estimated prevalence of 2-3% in the general population. This means that about 2-3 people out of 100 have some degree of scoliosis. The condition is more common in girls than boys, and it tends to run in families. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), approximately 80% of scoliosis cases have no known cause, and the condition is often diagnosed during routine school screenings. This of course isn’t the case in the UK, since school screenings are not provided!

There are different types of scoliosis, and the prevalence of the condition varies depending on the type. Idiopathic scoliosis, which is the most common type, accounts for about 80% of all cases of scoliosis. This type of scoliosis occurs for no known reason (which means that we don’t yet know why, not that there is no reason at all!) and can develop at any age – it is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18.

Another type of scoliosis is congenital scoliosis, which is present at birth and is caused by abnormal spinal development. Congenital scoliosis is less common than idiopathic scoliosis and accounts for about 10% of all cases of scoliosis in children. Neuromuscular scoliosis is another type, which is caused by underlying neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy. Overall, congenital cases are a much smaller percentage of cases, but it’s still a condition which is seen fairly often.

Degenerative scoliosis is also known as adult scoliosis, and it typically develops in people over the age of 50. As people age, the discs in the spine start to wear down, and the vertebrae can begin to shift and rotate, leading to scoliosis. Other factors that can contribute to the development of degenerative scoliosis include osteoporosis, arthritis, and other spinal conditions. Degenerative scoliosis is actually the most common form of Scoliosis – as many as 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 suffer from the condition.


Does Age Contribute to the Development of Scoliosis?

The exact cause of scoliosis is unknown, but researchers have identified certain factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. While age is one of these, it’s just one of many factors. These include:


Scoliosis tends to run in families, which suggests that there may be a genetic component to the condition. Researchers have identified several genes that may be associated with scoliosis, but more research is needed to understand the role of genetics in the development of the condition.


Scoliosis is more common in girls than boys, particularly in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This may be due to differences in hormonal levels or the fact that girls tend to go through growth spurts earlier than boys. This difference tends to even out in adult and degenerative Scoliosis cases.

Neuromuscular conditions

Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis. These conditions affect the muscles and nerves that control the spine, leading to abnormal curvature.

Posture and body mechanics

Poor posture and body mechanics don’t cause Scoliosis, but they might contribute to worsening it. One group which has a particularly high incidence of Scoliosis is ballet dancers and gymnasts – one theory suggests that contorting the body as required in these activities might worsen scoliosis.

Spinal conditions

Certain spinal conditions, such as herniated discs and spinal stenosis, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis in older people. These conditions can cause the vertebrae to shift and rotate, leading to abnormal curvature.



Do Animals Get Scoliosis?

At the UK Scoliosis Clinic we focus on the non-surgical treatment of Scoliosis … in humans! But one of the most common questions we hear (especially from some of our younger patients!) is “Do animals get scoliosis too?” The short answer is yes, they do – and while we’re not Veterinarians here, it is both useful and interesting to take a look at Scoliosis in animals and why it matters.


What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis, in case you’re not aware, is, a medical condition characterised by an abnormal curvature of the spine, everyone’s spine has a normal “backwards and forwards” curve which is important for absorbing shocks and carrying the weight of the body, however in Scoliosis the spine also curves “from side to side” which can lead to problems. Scoliosis is observed in and associated with humans – however, while our understanding of this condition in animals may not be as extensive as it is in humans, there is evidence to suggest that various species can indeed experience spinal conditions including Scoliosis.


Scoliosis in Humans vs. Animals

Human scoliosis is well-documented and (thanks to more prevalent screening) can now often be diagnosed early during adolescence. It can result from a variety of factors, including genetics, neuromuscular conditions, or congenital abnormalities. In animals, the situation is more complex due to the diversity of species and the limited research available. However, cases of scoliosis have been reported in both domestic and wild animals, suggesting that this condition is not exclusive to humans.


Evidence of Scoliosis in Animals

Veterinarians and researchers have observed instances of scoliosis in various animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and even fish. In fact, one species of fish, the Zebrafish, is one of the leading research species as we attempt to understand the genetic factors which lead to Scoliosis in the first place! In domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, scoliosis may be congenital or develop later in life due to factors like muscle imbalances or injuries.


Causes of Scoliosis in Animals

Understanding the causes of scoliosis in animals is challenging, as it can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Congenital scoliosis, present at birth, may result from genetic mutations or developmental issues during gestation. Acquired scoliosis, on the other hand, can develop later in an animal’s life due to injuries, muscle imbalances, or underlying health conditions.

Genetic factors play a crucial role in the development of scoliosis in some animal species. While it has not yet been fully proven, most Scoliosis specialists and researchers agree that Genetic factors are probably the main cause of Scoliosis in humans – at least in adolescents. In animals, the cause might be similar, but the underlying circumstances may be different – selective breeding in domesticated animals, particularly dogs and cats, may inadvertently contribute to a higher incidence of congenital spinal deformities. In wild animals, genetic predispositions to scoliosis are less understood, but researchers believe that natural selection may influence the prevalence of such conditions in certain populations.

Unfortunately, environmental factors, such as inadequate living conditions, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis in animals. For example, animals kept in cramped or restrictive environments may experience muscle imbalances or abnormal growth patterns, leading to spinal deformities. Injuries, whether from accidents or repetitive activities, can also play a role in the onset of scoliosis.

Of course, animals also age just like we do and it’s reasonable to speculate that with greater age may come a higher incidence of some kinds of Scoliosis in animals. We know that this is the case in Humans, where as many as one in three people over the age of 65 suffer from a condition known as “de-novo Scoliosis” – which is simply the result of ageing.


Implications for Animal Well-being

Scoliosis in animals can have significant implications for their overall health and well-being, just as it can for humans. There’s a significant lack of research here, although we can say that in domestic pets, the condition may cause discomfort, affect mobility, and impact their quality of life – of course, for many of our pets, there are services like massage and therapy which can help manage this just like in Humans!


Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing scoliosis in animals can be challenging, as they may not exhibit obvious symptoms until the condition is advanced. In fact, the same issue applies in humans – with Scoliosis being notoriously difficult to spot without specialised screening. Screening in Humans is easy since we have developed simple screening exercises which take less than 5 minutes to impairment – unfortunately, we don’t have the same options for animals at present, so veterinarians often rely on a combination of physical examinations, imaging studies such as X-rays, and, in some cases, genetic testing to determine the presence and severity of scoliosis.

Treatment options for scoliosis in animals vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In some cases, conservative management, including physical therapy and lifestyle modifications, may be sufficient to improve an animal’s comfort and mobility. For more severe cases or those with a congenital origin, surgical intervention could be considered to correct the spinal deformity.


So do animals get Scoliosis?

While the prevalence of scoliosis in animals may not be as well-documented as it is in humans, there is growing evidence to suggest that various species can experience spinal deformities such as Scoliosis. Genetic and environmental factors can play a role in the development of scoliosis in animals, and its implications for their well-being are significant, but like in humans, with research, we’re confident it can be managed.

As our understanding of scoliosis in animals continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly important for veterinarians, researchers, and pet owners alike to be aware of the condition and its potential impact on animal health. By recognising and addressing scoliosis in animals – just like in humans – we can work towards enhancing their quality of life and ensuring that they receive the care and attention they deserve.