The spine has three slight curves - one in the neck, one in the upper back and another in the lower back. These curves are normal and can be seen from a side view. From a back view, the spine should appear straight. If the spine has a side-to-side curve, the curve is called scoliosis. There are two main types called postural and structural.

POSTURAL SCOLIOSIS can be corrected and is caused by some irregularity of posture such as unequal leg length.

STRUCTURAL SCOLIOSIS can be due to abnormalities or diseases of bones, muscles or nerves. Between the ages of about 9 and 14, children's bones grow rapidly. At this time, the back-bone or spine may sometimes show signs of developing scoliosis. Early detection enables early treatment. This may control the condition and prevent other problems developing in later years.

Check it Out Regularly

When scoliosis is first developing there is almost never any sign of pain, which is why regular checks are so important. If left untreated the curve may increase, eventually leading to back pain, loss of flexibility and the appearance of being bent over. In later life, severe scoliosis may result in other complications, e.g. arthritis, respiratory infections and heart problems.


Signs to Check

Although many students from the age of nine to fourteen are screened for signs of scoliosis at school, parents could assist by checking for the early warning signs every six months.

Signs to check

Even if one or more of these signs are present it does not necessarily mean scoliosis has developed.

It may be that one leg is a little shorter than the other, or it could be a postural problem. By raising one shoe or undertaking an appropriate exercise and posture programme it may be corrected.
How Physiotherapy Can Help

In the majority of scoliosis cases where it is postural or the curve is mild, physiotherapy can help.

Physiotherapists can:
bullet give an individual posture assessment
bullet assess any muscle imbalance
bullet devise an exercise programme to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles
bullet in some cases use strapping to control posture
bullet advise on posture and back care
bullet advise on ways to alleviate stress on the spine with the use of appropriate furniture, the correct wearing of back packs, etc.
bullet monitor the condition regularly
bullet recommend further assessment by a medical specialist
For a moderate curve or one that is increasing rapidly, the doctor may advise a back brace or a scoliosis jacket together with an exercise programme supervised by a physiotherapist.

Bracing does not prevent participation in most sports and other normal activities. With a severe curve, surgery may be needed.


Physiotherapists in private practice are listed in the Yellow Pages. Members of the A.P.A. are bound by a professional Code of Ethics and have access to extensive postgraduate education programmes. Check for the initials M.A.P.A. after the physiotherapist's name.

Health Rebates

You may consult a physiotherapist either directly or by referral from your medical practitioner. Rebates for treatment costs are available under higher health insurance schemes.
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Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association