Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine. The curvature can be in the shape of a “C” or an “S” and can occur in any part of the spine. Scoliosis can range in severity from mild to severe and can cause pain, discomfort, and mobility issues. The condition can affect people of all ages but is most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents. In some cases, scoliosis is congenital (present at birth), while in other cases it develops later in life.

Causes of Scoliosis

The exact causes of scoliosis are not always clear, but there are several factors that are known to contribute to the development of the condition. These include:

Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is present at birth and is caused by an abnormality in the development of the spine.

Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by conditions that affect the nerves and muscles, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injuries.

Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common form of scoliosis and has no known cause. It typically develops during the growth spurt that occurs just before puberty.

Degenerative scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by the degeneration of the spine due to age or conditions such as osteoporosis.

Traumatic scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by an injury to the spine, such as a fracture or dislocation.

In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown and is referred to as “idiopathic” scoliosis. While the exact cause of idiopathic scoliosis is not known, it is believed to be influenced by genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors.

Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

The signs and symptoms of scoliosis can vary depending on the severity of the curvature and the age of the individual. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Uneven shoulder or hip height: One shoulder or hip may appear higher than the other.
  • Uneven waist or ribcage: One side of the waist or ribcage may appear higher than the other.
  • Leaning to one side: When standing or walking, the individual may lean to one side.
  • Back pain: Scoliosis can cause back pain, especially in adults.
  • Limited mobility: Severe scoliosis can limit the individual’s mobility and flexibility.
  • Breathing difficulties: Severe scoliosis can affect lung function, leading to shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue: The curvature of the spine can put extra strain on the muscles, leading to fatigue.
  • Uneven leg lengths: In some cases, scoliosis can cause one leg to appear shorter than the other.

It’s important to note that many people with scoliosis have no symptoms and may not even be aware they have the condition. Therefore, it’s important to have regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to detect scoliosis early.

Treatment for Scoliosis

The goal of physiotherapy for scoliosis is to help manage pain, improve posture, increase mobility, and prevent further progression of the curvature. Here are some common physiotherapy treatments for scoliosis:

Stretching exercises: These exercises can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the spine, hips, and shoulders.

Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can help improve the strength of the back and abdominal muscles, which can help support the spine and prevent further progression of the curvature.

Manual therapy: This includes massage, mobilization, and manipulation techniques to help reduce pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints.

Postural training: Physiotherapists can teach individuals with scoliosis how to improve their posture while sitting, standing, and walking, which can help alleviate pain and improve breathing.

Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises can help improve lung function and alleviate shortness of breath caused by severe scoliosis.

Bracing: In some cases, a brace may be recommended to help prevent further progression of the curvature, and physiotherapists can help fit and adjust the brace as needed.

Education and advice: Physiotherapists can provide education and advice on how to manage scoliosis, including exercises and lifestyle modifications to help manage pain and prevent further progression of the curvature.

It’s important to note that physiotherapy treatment for scoliosis should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs and the severity of their condition, and should be performed under the guidance of a qualified physiotherapist.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about scoliosis please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Negrini, S., Donzelli, S., Aulisa, A. G., Czaprowski, D., Schreiber, S., De Mauroy, J. C., … & Zaina, F. (2018). 2016 SOSORT guidelines: orthopaedic and rehabilitation treatment of idiopathic scoliosis during growth. Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders

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