Types of scoliosis

Types of scoliosis

Thoracic scoliosis (left), lumbar scoliosis (right)

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways, often in an S or C shape. In some cases, the spine rotates, making one shoulder blade stick out farther than the other. Scoliosis can affect the thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (lower back) spine. Scoliosis has two main categories, nonstructural or structural.




  • Difference in shoulder height
  • Head is not centered on the body
  • Uneven hips or shoulders
  • Difference in how the arms hang
  • When bending forward, the sides of the back appear different in height
  • Spine curves more to one side
  • Tired feeling in the spine after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Backache or low-back pain

Nonsurgical treatments

  • Bracing: This is an option if the spine is still growing. The type of brace varies with severity.
  • Physical therapy: OHSU offers a therapist certified in the Schroth Method for scoliosis. This technique can stabilize your curve and lower the chances of needing surgery.
  • Watch and wait: An approach in which the curve is measured in a series of appointments.

Surgical treatments

Surgery may be recommended if other treatments don’t slow the progression of the spinal curve. Some who didn’t need surgery as a child may find they need it as an adult. Others who had surgery as children may find that the untreated area grew worse, requiring a second surgery.

  • Scoliosis surgery: Surgeons attach tiny metal hooks or screws to the spine and connect them to small rods to straighten the spinal curve.
  • Spinal fusion surgery: This procedure, in which two or more spinal bones (vertebrae) are permanently joined for stability, may be recommended for an adult with degenerative scoliosis.

Pediatric patients

  • Read about scoliosis in children and the comprehensive care for this condition at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.