Scoliosis is where the spine twists and curves to the side.

It can affect people of any age, from babies to adults, but most often starts in children aged 10 to 15.

Scoliosis can improve with treatment, but it is not usually a sign of anything serious and treatment is not always needed if it's mild.

Symptoms of scoliosis

A front and back image of the body of a young white adult male affected by scoliosis, showing a noticeable curve of the spine

Signs of scoliosis include:

Some people with scoliosis may also have back pain. This is usually more common in adults with the condition.

When to see a GP

See a GP if you think you or your child has scoliosis. It's unlikely that there's anything seriously wrong, but it's best to get it checked out.

If the GP suspects scoliosis they should refer you to a specialist. If you're diagnosed with scoliosis, they will discuss treatment options with you.

An X-ray of your back will be carried out to check how big the curve is.

You can find a specialist scoliosis centre on the Scoliosis Support & Research website.

Treatments for scoliosis

Treatment for scoliosis depends on your age, how severe the curve is, and whether it's likely to get worse with time.

Many people will not need any treatment and only a small number will need to have surgery on their spine.

It's not clear whether back exercises help improve scoliosis, but general exercise is good for overall health and should not be avoided unless advised by your doctor.

Read more about treatments for scoliosis in children and treatments for scoliosis in adults.

Living with scoliosis

Most people with scoliosis are able to live normal lives and can do most activities, including exercise and sports.

The condition does not usually cause significant pain or any other health problems, and tends to stay the same after you stop growing – see a GP if it gets any worse.

Having scoliosis or wearing a back brace can be tough and may cause problems with body image and self-esteem, particularly for children and teenagers.

You may find it useful to contact a support group, such as Scoliosis Support & Research.

These groups are a good source of information and support, and they may be able to put you in touch with people in a similar situation to you.

Causes of scoliosis

In around 8 in every 10 cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis.

Idiopathic scoliosis cannot be prevented and is not thought to be linked to things such as bad posture, exercise or diet.

Your genes may make you more likely to get it though, as it sometimes runs in families.

Less commonly, scoliosis may be caused by:

Scoliosis Support & Research has more information about the different types of scoliosis.

Page last reviewed: 12 April 2023
Next review due: 12 April 2026