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june is scoliosis awareness month!

In honour of this month, we're doing a countdown on social media of "Ten Things You May Not Know About Scoliosis" to help build awareness and provide friends, families, loved ones, and everyone from the recently to long-ago diagnosed, with more information about the condition.

Stay tuned to Facebook and Instagram for regular countdown updates throughout the month!

Scoliosis is a complex and multi-layered condition, and you don't have to go it alone. Please feel free to explore our resource site for more information, and get in touch if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a private consult with Martha Carter or any of our TOPS associates around the globe.


1. Scoliosis is very common.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine affecting an estimated 2-3% of the general population - that’s about 7 million people in the US alone! The most common type of scoliosis, Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), is diagnosed during early teen years in otherwise healthy children.

2. All different kinds of people get scoliosis.

Scoliosis affects children of ALL BODY TYPES, FITNESS LEVELS, RACES, and NATIONALITIES; affecting girls eight times more than boys. In addition to showing up during adolescence, the condition can appear at birth (infantile), during childhood (pediatric), or later in life (senior).

Some common factors found in people with scoliosis include:

a. Family history.

b. A fast and significant teenage growth spurt  - a curve can often appear quite suddenly after a growth spurt.

c. Hyper-flexible joints (many people with scoliosis have very flexible joints, so they often succeed in dance, gymnastics, circus arts, and sports, but this can also be problematic).

3. There is no known cause for scoliosis.

There is no known cause for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) - idiopathic means ‘no known cause’. Research shows that it often runs in families which points to some genetic factors, however, it is understood to be a ‘polygenic’ or ‘multi-factorial’ condition. This means that it is not inherited as simply as single-gene diseases are, but rather that it depends on the simultaneous presence of several particular genes.

4. There is no known cure for scoliosis.

While there is no known cure for structural scoliosis (yet!), there are both medical and non-medical treatments that can be used to keep it from getting worse. In the case of medical solutions, bracing may stop a curve but it does not change it. Corrective spinal fusion can partially straighten a curve, but there is always some residual asymmetry left in the spine - plus the spine is less mobile due to the fusion.

In terms of non-medical treatments, there are many success stories of people improving their curves by lengthening and strengthening their bodies through exercise.

It is worth noting that some curves are actually ‘non-structural’ and referred to as ‘functional scoliosis’. This is a different kind of condition that is caused by muscle imbalance. Often this can be corrected through exercise.

5. You can’t always ‘see’ scoliosis.

Scoliosis is not always visible. And not all curves are alike. Sometimes the small scoliosis curves can cause pain and discomfort, while some very large ones can be problem-free.

When you see someone whose back looks curved or twisted, or both, it is likely they have scoliosis. Or if you notice someone who appears unusually straight or stiff, they may have a ‘corrected’ scoliosis thanks to fusion surgery.

You may also see people of any age, often teenagers, wearing a brace around their torso - under or over their clothes -  to keep their curve from getting worse (the most popular ones are made of fibreglass or an elastic-velcro combination). And finally, you may meet someone who struggles from terrible back pain, but you don’t really see a curve or twist at all.

6. Scoliosis can be very painful and disabling.

Because of the curve and twist of the spine, scoliosis can often cause a lot of discomfort and pain in the whole body, especially when nerves are affected. It is quite common for there to be ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days with the pain coming and going in unpredictable ways. The level of discomfort from scoliosis often changes throughout a person’s lifetime as the condition can worsen with age.

Scoliosis is not considered life-threatening, although the compression and deformity of the torso can weaken the system, possibly compromising heart, lung and organ function, leading to ill health.

People with fused spines may also experience different kinds of discomfort caused by the surgery, the instrumentation, and/or the fusion itself.

7. Scoliosis affects people physically and emotionally.

The effects of scoliosis are most noticeably physical, however, it can have a big emotional impact as well. Along with physical discomfort that can be exhausting and nerve-wracking, it can also cause people to feel self-conscious about looking crooked, or their ‘funny’ way of walking. Sometimes the curves cause asymmetric humps and lumps in odd places, which makes it difficult to find comfortable clothing that fits properly. Added to this are fears of hurting oneself or feelings of insecurity around the safety of certain activities.

All in all, people with scoliosis can benefit from staying open about their issues so that friends and family can help when needed. Various supportive care options, including stress-reduction and emotional counseling, are highly recommended.

8. Families need support too.

Having a child or other family member with scoliosis can be scary and nerve-wracking. There is often a long 'wait and see' period, with a lot of unknowns. Having treatments such as bracing or surgery can be very traumatic for both the patient and the family. Many people with scoliosis, or who are looking after someone with the condition, have difficulty working or performing regular household functions, which puts a strain on finances and pressure on a family’s lifestyle. Depending on the situation, family members can also benefit from some of the same kind of physical and/or emotional supportive care that is recommended for patients.

9. There are many non-surgical ways that can help people manage their scoliosis.

There are several scoliosis-focused exercise methods that can be very helpful, including Yoga for Scoliosis, Scoli-Pilates and the Schroth Method. To read more about these techniques, visit Martha's blog post on this topic.

There are also many supportive care options such as massage, acupuncture, and other healing techniques. Unfortunately, medical insurance plans do not always cover these, but they are worth trying. To read more about supportive care go here

10. Can people with scoliosis lead normal lives?

Scoliosis is considered a lifelong condition, not a disease.

Most people with scoliosis can lead normal, active lives, and some even achieve high levels of athleticism in dance and sports.

For those who do have chronic discomfort, it is important to find ways to manage their pain while staying mobile. Targeted, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises combined with massage and other supportive care techniques can help to manage symptoms.

See our BACK CARE page for more resources and information.

11. BONUS: Is there anything I can do to help someone with scoliosis?

Often people with scoliosis have trouble sitting in certain ways or standing for long periods of time. You can help them by being open and talking about their needs, and by making sure they get the kind of seat or chair - or mattress, or pillow - that works best for them!