You can be diagnosed with scoliosis at any age. Children are diagnosed most often, but adults can develop scoliosis, too. In adults, scoliosis is often a result of degenerative disk disease of the spine.

younger girl with scoliosis talking with her grandfatherShare on Pinterest
Ippei Naoi/Getty Images

Scoliosis is a spinal condition. It causes an atypical curve in the spine that can be S- or C-shaped. Scoliosis curves can be mild or severe, can go to the left or to the right, and can develop at any location along the spine.

Some people with scoliosis experience no symptoms and are only aware of their condition after diagnostic tests, such as X-rays. Other people may experience symptoms.

Many people are diagnosed with scoliosis during childhood. It’s common for healthcare professionals to notice the condition when a child is young and for it to progress during growth spurts. But it’s possible for adults to develop scoliosis.

Learn more about scoliosis.

Scoliosis is generally considered a childhood condition, but anyone can develop scoliosis at any age. Sometimes, adults receive a diagnosis of scoliosis that was undiagnosed in childhood. Adults can also develop new spinal curves.

Adults can receive a diagnosis of scoliosis even if they have no history of the condition and show no signs of it having been present when they were children. The most common reason for this is degeneration (breakdown) of the disks and connective tissues of the spine.

Adults who develop scoliosis as a result of degeneration in their spinal disks and tissues have a type of scoliosis called degenerative scoliosis.

Sometimes, this is simply a result of the body’s aging, but there are some known risk factors. For instance, people who smoke and people who work jobs that put a heavy strain on their bodies are at a higher risk of degenerative scoliosis.

Can you develop scoliosis from bad posture?

Scoliosis can cause changes in your posture, but you can’t develop adult scoliosis because of your posture. It’s commonly believed that poor posture can lead to scoliosis, but research hasn’t shown this to be true.

There might be a link between childhood or adolescent scoliosis and posture, but that’s because the body is still growing and changing.

No similar link has been found between posture and adult scoliosis. But if you already have scoliosis, improper posture can increase symptoms, such as pain.

Often, scoliosis has no symptoms, and healthcare professionals discover it on an X-ray for another condition or during a routine physical exam. When symptoms of scoliosis are present, they may include things such as:

Healthcare professionals can recommend several treatments for scoliosis. The right treatment option for you depends on the severity of your symptoms and your age. For instance, children often wear scoliosis braces during growth spurts to help prevent the curvature from worsening.

Treatment options for adults with scoliosis typically include:

  • Quitting smoking: If you smoke, quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of scoliosis complications.
  • Lifestyle strategies: In addition to quitting smoking, lifestyle strategies such as maintaining a moderate weight, improving your posture, adding daily stretches to your routine, and increasing your physical fitness level with low impact exercises, can help reduce your symptoms.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help you manage scoliosis by improving your range of motion, balance, and posture.
  • Pain relieving medications: You might receive prescription pain relievers or be recommended over-the-counter pain relievers, depending on the severity of your pain.
  • Injections: Nerve-blocking injections around your spine can help relieve your pain.
  • Spine stabilization surgery: Spine stabilization surgery is an option for people with severe scoliosis that is progressing, painful, and not helped with other treatments.

Many people with scoliosis are able to lead full, active, and healthy lives. Scoliosis doesn’t typically affect lifespans, and you can often manage it with treatment.

There is a risk of some complications if the condition progresses, such as nerve compression and breathing difficulties, but treatment is often able to prevent these complications.

Your doctor can help you understand your outlook and the ways your scoliosis might progress and affect you as you age.

Receiving a chronic diagnosis, such as scoliosis, can be overwhelming and stressful. But there are places you can turn to for support. If you have received a scoliosis diagnosis, you can check out:

  • The Scoliosis Support Network: The Scoliosis Support Network is a Facebook group that connects people around the world with scoliosis for community, resources, and support.
  • The National Scoliosis Foundation: You can check out The National Scoliosis Foundation for educational materials, resources, doctor referrals, and more.
  • The National Scoliosis Foundation Forum: The National Scoliosis Foundation Forum is hosted by the National Scoliosis Foundation and allows people with scoliosis to connect for discussions, sharing, venting, advice, support, and more.
  • The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): You’ll find information on scoliosis and a guide to seeking physical therapy in your area on the APTA website.

Scoliosis is a spinal condition that causes a curve that can be mild or severe. The condition is often associated with childhood, but adults can also develop scoliosis.

Often, adult scoliosis is linked to degeneration of the disks and connective tissue of the spinal cord. People who smoke and people with physically demanding jobs are at a higher risk for this type of scoliosis.

Currently, there’s no cure for scoliosis, but treatment can help manage the condition and prevent complications. The exact treatment depends on the severity of the curve and symptoms but can include lifestyle measures, physical therapy, pain medications, injections, and surgery.