Scoliosis explained


Originally being a Greek word that meant curved or bent, the term Scoliosis is now commonly used to describe the condition in which the spine curves laterally (sideways). This curve can present as one curve or two, being called a C­-curve and S­-curve respectively.


There are two major types of scoliosis: structural and non-structural. Structural scoliosis presents as a curve in the spine with an added rotation, this is your standard type and commonly occurs during adolescence when we go through the growth spurts; we call this Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) and they make up 90% of all recorded clinical cases of scoliosis. Structural scoliosis cannot be reversed, but it is treatable if spotted in time. Non-structural scoliosis on the other hand presents as a curve in the spine without any rotation and is much more readily treatable.



AIS is an idiopathic condition, meaning that there is no known specific cause that can present the scoliosis. In spite of common opinion, structural scoliosis is not a condition of bad posture, though it may cause it. And although there is no medical evidence of a cause, there is a link between scoliosis and genetics. If one or both parents has had scoliosis, then there is a higher percentage chance that their child may also present with scoliosis. There are also studies that show that females have a higher chance of obtaining AIS compared to males.

Non­-structural scoliosis on the other hand can be caused by pain or muscle spasms in the back which pushes the spine into a curve, and it can also be caused by a difference in leg length which creates an imbalance of the hip, which in turn creates an imbalance in the spine.


Forward bend test:


The forward bend test (or Adam’s Test) is a simple way to test if the scoliosis is structural or non­structural. The client takes his or her shirt off so that the back and their spine is visible, then have them bend forward at the hip, hands hanging in front until they pass the knee and that the torso is in a horizontal position. From behind, take note of the curves of the spine and if there is a side of the ribs that sit higher up than the other. An elevated rib hump is indicative of structural scoliosis because of the added rotation.

Other small signs of scoliosis include: 
- One shoulder being higher than the other
- One scapula (shoulder blade) may stick out
- The hip is not level / difference in leg length
- Their head is not centred over the centred over their body



For some AIS cases, if the curve of the spine starts to exceed what is acceptable and will soon begin to cause pain, the doctor may suggest a brace to keep the spine within tolerable levels. There are only a few cases where surgical intervention is needed to keep the curve in check.

Massage is another helpful way to treat scoliosis, as both structural and non-­structural scoliosis clients can benefit from it. While it is easier to treat non­-structural scoliosis, as eliminating the muscle tension or origin of the pain can essentially bring the spine to normal alignment, working on the surrounding structures of structural scoliosis can ease the pain and tension the client feels and also slow the progression.


Julius Principe


This article has been prepared by Julius Principe.  Please leave your comments below if you have any further questions about scoliosis