What Does Scoliosis Look Like?
Scoliosis is a complex condition that comes in many different forms, varies greatly in severity from one patient to the next, and manifests itself in all kinds of different ways. The symptoms of scoliosis are many and varied: a curved spine can cause pain, stiffness, muscle imbalance, and even heart/lung problems in particularly critical cases.
However, for many scoliosis sufferers – particularly those who are young and have only recently been diagnosed – the most daunting potential consequence of spinal curvature is the impact it can have on one’s appearance.

How does scoliosis make you look?

Curvature of the spine can affect your appearance in a number of different ways. Common visible symptoms of scoliosis include:
  • A sideways lean
  • Uneven or tilted shoulders, hips, legs and/or rib cage
  • Unusually prominent shoulder blade and/or ribs on one side
The severity of these symptoms varies greatly. Some cases of scoliosis are virtually invisible (particularly when the patient is clothed), whereas more pronounced curves may result in very noticeable prominences and asymmetries that are difficult to conceal.

Scoliosis patient gallery

To give you a better idea of what scoliosis looks like, here are some photos of scoliosis sufferers who came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic for treatment (N.B. these photographs were taken before treatment commenced).
Scoliosis Gallery

How to combat the visible symptoms of scoliosis

If you are concerned that your curved spine may have a dramatic impact on the way you look, there are a number of ways to minimise the visibility of your condition:
  • Certain types of clothing are better at concealing the signs of scoliosis than others – click here for advice.
  • If your scoliosis is particularly severe, you may require spinal fusion surgery to correct it. This procedure will diminish the visibility of your curve, but it is usually only offered to patients with a Cobb angle of at least 40-50 degrees.
  • Completing an exercise-based scoliosis treatment course can go a long way to reducing the visibility of your spinal curve. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we treat scoliosis sufferers using a method known as ScolioGold therapy that has proven very effective when it comes to reducing curve size.

Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) can affect patients in a variety of different ways and appear in a number of different locations, including the upper and lower back. Cervical scoliosis is one such variant – this term refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine in the neck region.

Cervical Scoliosis

Typically, cervical scoliosis occurs as part of a larger spinal curvature, but in rare cases, scoliosis can be isolated to the neck alone.

Causes of cervical scoliosis

As cervical scoliosis is a relatively rare condition, efforts to discover causes and treatments are still relatively young. It is understood that, in the case of early onset cervical scoliosis, the curvature tends to form naturally at any time from infancy through to adolescence. Adult forms of cervical scoliosis, however, are more likely to stem from a spinal injury or spinal deterioration. Cervical scoliosis can also develop as a result of another medical condition, such as:

Cervical Scoliosis Neck Pain

Cervical scoliosis does tend to cause more pain in patients than other forms of scoliosis. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as an imbalance of weight, cervical nerve roots becoming compressed between vertebrae, and an increased risk of further neck injury.  

Treatments for cervical scoliosis

Fortunately, there are a variety of different treatments for cervical scoliosis that can help to relieve the pain. The best treatment method depends on the prognosis, the patient’s age, and the type and severity of the curvature. Treatment methods include:
  • Bracing – This is typically used for early onset cervical scoliosis, as it may halt the progression of the curvature until the patient is old enough to undergo surgery.
  • Physical Therapy – This method entails creating an exercise routine to help improve and stretch the muscles in the neck area. This is usually used in milder cases of cervical scoliosis, but can be effective in more severe cases too.
  • Pain Management – Non-surgical forms of pain management include nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, and radiofrequency nerve ablation.

How we can help

We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic are specialists in the field of spinal curvature issues. We work to help patients suffering from scoliosis and similar spinal conditions to resolve and improve their condition through non-surgical methods. The path to improving your condition starts with an initial consultation, where you will be evaluated by a specialist consultant who will be able to confirm the degree of your scoliosis and your prognosis. After this, we will recommend the best treatment programme for your condition – this will provide you with your own customised exercise routine to promote the correction of an asymmetric posture, decrease pain, and maintain improvements going forward.

Find Out More >   Book Your Initial Consultation >

How is Scoliosis Measured?
With scoliosis affecting over 4% of the world’s population, it is easy to understand why many people would like to know the ins and outs of the process by which scoliosis is measured. Scoliosis is a medical condition that is characterised by a curvature of the spine and causes symptoms such as back pain, visible prominence and compromised breathing. To be diagnosed with scoliosis, the angle of your curvature must generally be at least 10 degrees. When measuring scoliosis, the curve is considered ‘significant’ if it is greater than 25-30 degrees and ‘severe’ if exceeding 45-50 degrees. 

Measuring and diagnosing scoliosis

In an initial consultation to measure and diagnose the severity of your scoliosis, the consultant will usually begin by looking for specific symptoms such as:
  • Uneven shoulders, hips, waist, legs or rib cage
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent than the other
  • Leaning to one side
After this stage, your consultant will also obtain your medical history in order to understand any symptoms you are currently experiencing which could influence your condition. They will also need details of any treatment you have previously received for your back to complete a full understanding of your spinal condition.
When the patient is a child, these details need to be discussed in order for the doctor to understand how much further the child will grow and if there is a history of the condition in the family. When diagnosing children, the Adam’s forward bend test is usually used: this requires your child to bend at the waist with their feet held together, arms extended and palms touching. The Adam’s forward bend test examines side-to-side asymmetry using a scoliometer. If any abnormalities (e.g. uneven shoulder blades) are apparent, the consultation will then move on to the second stage of measuring scoliosis.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, the second step when measuring scoliosis is a medical examination of the spine and back. Two measurements can be used, the first being an X-ray examination to assess of the rotation of the spine. The curvature of the spine is then measured using the Cobb method and the severity of the scoliosis is determined by assessing the angle of the curve. Identifying the patient’s Cobb angle is essential to measuring scoliosis as it helps to identify magnitude of the spinal deformity. 
Cobb angle
The Cobb angle is calculated by measuring the angle between the most tilted vertebrae above and below the curvature. Perpendicular lines are drawn from the top of the highest vertebrae in the curve and the bottom of the lowest vertebrae in the curve. When these lines intersect, it gives us the Cobb angle, and this measurement tells us how severe the condition is.
The second measurement utilised at our clinic is a radiation-free back scan, which uses light and photography to digitally analyse your back shape and profile. This scan will then be discussed with you in full, and you will be provided with your own copy for your records.
At the end of your consultation, you will be provided with details on the degree of your spinal curvature and advice on the best next steps to take with your condition.
To find out more information about our non-surgical treatment courses, please click here.  We have treated numerous patients suffering from scoliosis over the years, and the results speak for themselves. If you’d be interested in learning more about what we do, please get in touch with us today.
The most important thing to keep in mind when seeking information on your curved spine is the fact that no two curves are the same. In fact, even perfectly healthy spines have some level of curvature, although this slight curve does not pose a problem unless it grows to be abnormally severe. Curvatures can occur in different parts of the spine and develop into a variety of shapes depending on the direction and location of the irregularity.
Previously on the Scoliosis SOS blog, we discussed the characteristics of hyperkyphosis, a spinal condition which causes the upper region of the spine to curve forwards, creating a hunched appearance. Hyperlordosis, on the other hand, occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine, causing the patient to have an excessively arched posture in the lower part of the back.
To explain in more detail, here’s a closer look at the causes and symptoms of hyperlordosis.

What causes hyperlordosis?

The first thing to note about hyperlordosis is that it can impact people of all genders and ages – although it is rare in children. The condition is frequently caused by bad posture, along with a number of other contributing factors and conditions, including:
  • Obesity
  • Spinal injury
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods of time
  • Uneven muscles, particularly a weak core
  • Injuries and trauma gained while dancing

What does hyperlodosis look like?

Hyperlordosis causes the inward curve in the lower back to become exaggerated, causing the stomach and bottom to appear pushed out, and the inward curve to resemble the letter ‘C’ when viewed from the side. To find out how this differs from the appearance of scoliosis and hyperkyphosis, read our guide to different curvatures of the spine here.

Can hyperlordosis be treated?

In the majority of cases, hyperlordosis is not a sign of a more severe condition, meaning that it can be treated and managed with physical therapy and exercises designed to strengthen the back, correct the curve, and improve overall posture. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we are able to provide tailored treatment programmes that are specifically designed with the individual needs of our patients in mind, allowing us to provide the best possible treatment. 
If you have recently been diagnosed with hyperlordosis and you would like to find out more about our non-invasive treatment methods, please feel free to contact the Scoliosis SOS team today.
Is Scoliosis Life-Threatening?
Scoliosis patients often ask numerous questions about their condition when they are first diagnosed. While many of these questions relate to the patient’s quality of life and cosmetic appearance, it is not uncommon for newly-diagnosed scoliosis sufferers to worry about their mortality, especially bearing in mind the progressive nature of the condition.
First of all, it is important to note that scoliosis is NOT considered to be a fatal condition. A curved spine cannot directly result in death.
However, there are some secondary risks which sometimes occur as a result of scoliosis, and these can lead to death in a small minority of cases. 

Lung & Heart Function

In its most severe form, scoliosis can affect the heart and lungs, limiting their ability to function and leading to complications that can potentially result in death. The deformity of the spine and chest wall can restrict lung function, thus reducing oxygen circulation, causing lung tissue to die off and preventing healthy lung growth in younger patients. This can also impact the heart’s ability to function correctly, as the lack of oxygen and proper distribution causes progressive stress, along with the crowding of the organs.
This only occurs in patients with the most severe curvatures (i.e. 100 degrees or more). The symptoms of such conditions also become gradually worse over time, which completely eliminates the possibility that scoliosis could cause sudden death with no prior warning or opportunity to prevent it. Treatment is almost always administered long before the condition has an opportunity to progress to this point, which usually prevents the secondary risks from developing altogether.

Risks for Younger Scoliosis Sufferers 

Most cases of scoliosis develop during adolescence, although the condition can sometimes occur in very young children. Progressive infantile scoliosis is considered to present a higher risk to the patient than scoliosis that develops later in life due to the potential impact on a young, developing body and the risk of progression as the child matures. For this reason, preventative treatments such as bracing are usually recommended right away in order to reduce the risk of later-in-life complications as far as possible.

Risk of Death During Surgery 

Once an individual’s spinal curve has reached an angle of 45-50 degrees, surgery is usually recommended in order to prevent the curve progressing to such an extent that it has a secondary impact on the individual’s health. While the surgery can be a permanent solution to the progression of a spinal curvature, there are several associated risks which can arise as a result of surgery – infection, for example.
That being said, death during spinal fusion surgery is very rare indeed, especially among patients who are in good health aside from their scoliosis. For otherwise healthy patients, the incidence of death as a complication of surgery is said to be less than 1%. The risk is higher for those with other conditions, as well as for older patients, although it is important to note that this is also applies to any other surgical procedure.

Can Treatment Reduce My Risk of Life-Threatening Complications?

While a handful of scoliosis cases have led to the patient’s death, there are many preventative measures which can be taken in order to avoid this outcome. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we specialise in providing individually-tailored correction treatments that are designed with the patient’s specific requirements in mind. We have treated patients as young as 4 and as old as 90+, all with spinal curvatures of varying severity. By educating patients about their condition and teaching them the exercises needed to prevent future curve progression, we are able to avoid the risks associated with severe scoliosis and surgery, further reducing the already low chance of death by scoliosis.
If you are concerned about your spinal curvature and the risks that it might pose to your overall health, please feel free to get in touch with our team today. Contact us now to request further information or arrange a consultation.