The human body usually shows an S-curve in an X-ray from the side. If there is an S-curve seen from the front or back, scoliosis may be present.
Scoliosis commonly occur in children, but can also be found in adults. While pain is not the main association, the condition can sometimes become serious enough to affect respiratory and heart-related functions.
There are various causes of scoliosis resulting in a similarly shaped curve. Most cases are idiopathic, i.e. without an identifiable cause. Neuromuscular scoliosis usually results in a long C-shape curve and can be severe.
Another type, termed degenerative, can affect the elderly in their lower backs. Osteoporosis, disc degeneration or vertebral compression fractures can have an influence on this condition. Functional scoliosis is where the spine appears to be curved but is actually healthy.
Imaging tests are done with ultrasound or CT scan to check the degree of curvature of the spine and check for related underlying medical conditions.
Reviewed by Dr. Mohd Mashfiqul Arafin Siddiqui (Dr. Mash), Senior Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon, The Orthopaedic Centre, Farrer Park Hospital