Scoliosis in Adults

The most common time for a person to develop scoliosis is during their teenage years. However, many forms of mild scoliosis during adolescence can go undetected until adulthood, when the condition may start / continue to progress and cause larger visible asymmetries or back pain. It’s entirely possible for scoliosis to develop later in life too.

Scoliosis that develops during adulthood is known as adult degenerative scoliosis (ADS). There are two forms of ADS:
  • Degenerative scoliosis
  • De novo scoliosis

What causes scoliosis in adults?

The cause of adult scoliosis depends on whether the patient has degenerative scoliosis or de novo scoliosis:
Congenital (from birth)
  • Congenital (from birth)
  • Infantile (0-3yrs)
Degenerative Scoliosis

Degenerative Scoliosis

If scoliosis that developed during childhood or adolescence is left untreated, it can continue to cause problems in the patient’s adulthood – especially if the spinal curvature progresses over time.
De Novo Scoliosis

De Novo Scoliosis

This is scoliosis that appears for the first time in adulthood. It’s caused by the deterioration of the spine and is made worse by general wear and tear.

What are the symptoms of adult scoliosis?

The symptoms of adult scoliosis are not dissimilar to child or teenage scoliosis. An adult suffering with scoliosis might experience:
Posture changes
Compromised breathing (in severe cases)
Tingling or numbness in the back or legs
Back pain

Diagnosing scoliosis in adults

If you think you, or someone close to you, might have scoliosis, the Adams Forward Bending Test can help you recognise it. Unfortunately, you can’t perform this check on yourself, so you will need to enlist the help of your partner or a close friend.
  • Stand directly behind the patient so you can see their back clearly.
  • Look at their shoulders, ribs, waist and hips. Do they look noticeably asymmetrical?
  • Next, ask the patient to bend over and touch their toes. Does one side of their rib cage appear more raised than the other?
If you think you have scoliosis, make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to provide a professional diagnosis.
No one’s body is completely symmetrical. You should only be concerned if you notice significant asymmetries.

Scoliosis treatment for adults

The treatment options for adults, particularly elderly people, differ somewhat from the options available for children or teenagers. Nonetheless, there are still a range of different ways scoliosis in adults can be treated.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories

For adults with mild scoliosis, or for patients who are not physically healthy enough to undergo spinal fusion surgery, doctors may prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to help patients cope with their scoliosis and the associated pain. However, this won’t prevent the curvature from worsening over time.

Spinal injections

Adult scoliosis, like all forms of scoliosis, can put pressure on the nerves and muscles around a patient’s spine. If a patient is experiencing numbness or tingling, it’s likely that their doctor will prescribe spinal injections of steroids to reduce swelling, or local anaesthetic to manage pain. The benefits of these injections may only last a few weeks.


Exercise-based therapy, like our ScolioGold treatment programme, can help reduce pain, improve mobility and prevent the spinal curve from progressing. Before starting any exercises to improve your scoliosis, make sure you confirm with a medical professional that you’re physically well enough to do so.

Surgery and bracing

Most adults won’t need spinal fusion surgery, but a GP might recommend it if your curvature has progressed quickly and significantly, or if your nerves are being trapped.

Some adults with scoliosis won’t be physically fit enough to undergo surgery. In these circumstances, they may be offered a scoliosis brace as an alternative. This will support the spine and help to keep the curve from getting worse.

Before & After Treatment

Our therapists have treated lots of adults with scoliosis. This is a purely exercise-based treatment method offered exclusively at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and it’s made up of many different non-surgical treatment techniques.

Regardless of your age and the severity of your spinal curvature, we can help you to achieve substantial improvements in your mobility, wellbeing and appearance.

Here you can see some of the results we’ve been able to achieve for our adult patients.

Case Study: Carol, 68 Years Old

Carol used to suffer so much pain from her scoliosis that her GP told her to 'hang up her walking boots'.

Watch this video to find out how we helped Carol to manage her scoliosis and keep hiking.
Contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic now to book a consultation >
My Patient
Meet The Team

The course was excellent and I feel I have really benefited from being here. My therapist has been a wonderful teacher, so enthusastic, kind and understanding. I could not have wished for a better team to look after me.

Deirdre, 43 from Scotland

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