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What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine, causing it to bend to the left or right and put extra pressure on the muscles and ligaments, leading to pain. The degree of curve can range from mild to severe and can be present in the upper or lower spine. Occasionally a double, S-shaped curve is seen.

What causes scoliosis?

True scoliosis means the curve in the spine is fixed and doesn’t disappear when you change position. There are a few types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Over 80% of cases are idiopathic*
  • Congenital, where the spine does not form properly before birth
  • Neuromuscular, due to muscle imbalances or weaknesses such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Osteopathic, which is a result of a bone deformity

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

A spinal specialist will ask some questions about your back pain and perform a careful assessment. They may ask you to bend forward to look at your back, as this makes scoliosis more visible. X-rays may be taken to assess the curvature of your back, and MRI or CT scans may also be used.

Treatment and recovery

Non-surgical treatments are the first option our spinal specialists consider for treating scoliosis. Physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications and injections to the spine are all helpful in reducing pain and inflammation.

If your nerves are affected, or if you are in severe pain then surgery may be considered. Spinal fusion joins together two or more spinal bones (vertebrae) using a bone graft, which is a small piece of bone taken from somewhere else in your body, or given by a donor (it may also be artificial bone). The graft is held in place by plates or screws until it fuses over time. Your surgeon may also remove excess bone or ligament around your spinal cord to relieve pressure. After the operation, you will need to stay in hospital for up to 4 days while we help you to start walking again. Your wound will need to be checked at 2 weeks and a course of 6-12 weeks of physiotherapy will help speed your recovery. We aim for you to be enjoying your normal everyday life again by 3-6 months after the operation.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.


*Patient.info, Payne, J. (2018). Scoliosis and Kyphosis. [online]. Available at: https://patient.info/health/back-and-spine-pain/scoliosis-and-kyphosis-curvature-of-the-spine [Accessed 12 Feb. 2019].

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