“Your Back Is Crooked:” Straight Talk About Curved Spines

“Your Back Is Crooked:” Straight Talk About Curved Spines

There are several different types of spinal curvature. They can occur together or separately, and can easily be confused for one another. We’ve provided a brief explanation of some of the most common types of curved spines so you can get a better idea of your specific situation.

Read on for common signs that you might have a curved spine:

Do you have scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition characterized as a sideways curvature in your spine. Usually occurring during puberty, it can be associated with hip and spinal pain later in life. Left untreated, the effects of scoliosis tend to worsen and can stress your spinal discs, cause compressed nerves and lead to arthritis of the discs and spine joints due to the spine’s abnormal structure. Think about it like this: it is much easier for gravity and weight to pull down a flimsy curved wire than a perfectly straight wire. The same is true for spines!

There are two broad categories of scoliosis:


Idiopathic scoliosis is scoliosis that has no known cause. In children, there are three types of idiopathic scoliosis: infantile, juvenile and adolescent. The age of the child at diagnosis determines the subtype. In adults, idiopathic scoliosis is simply pediatric scoliosis that was not defined or diagnosed until adulthood.


Non-idiopathic scoliosis in children is generally either congenital, meaning an abnormality in their spinal development, or neuromuscular. Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, can cause the nerves and muscles responsible for maintaining the balance and alignment of the spine to fail, often leading to pelvic obliquity and kyphosis. In adults, non-idiopathic scoliosis is usually degenerative or related to arthritis. This type of scoliosis is caused by wear and tear on the discs in the spine that causes it to curve over time

Scoliosis curves greater than 50° will likely get bigger over time and should be monitored by an orthopedic professional. If you notice that your shirts tend to be more wrinkled on one side, that the hemline of your dress is off or that one of your shoes is more worn down, consider making an appointment with a spine specialist.

Do you hunch forward?

Everyone hated to hear “Stop slouching!” as a child but, if you hear it now, you may have developed a forward curvature in your spine known as kyphosis. Thoracic kyphosis is an exaggerated forward curvature of the upper back. It can be caused by weaknesses in the spine that allow it to compress or crack. In children, an exaggerated kyphotic curve in the thoracic spine could be associated with Scheuermann’s kyphosis. Sometimes called “Scheuermann’s Disease,” it is caused by anterior wedging of multiple vertebrae in the thoracic spine, which runs from the base of the neck down to the abdomen. In severe cases, kyphosis can cause significant pain and disfigurement.

Do you arch your back significantly?

A significant arch in your back could be a sign of swayback. Swayback is a type of spine curvature that positions your shoulders behind your hips as opposed to keeping them centered. Swayback is simply an exaggerated case of lumbar lordosis— a curvature in the lower back that increases pressure on your spine, leading to pain and (if left untreated) a limited ability to move.

Do you have posture problems?

A  number of factors can contribute to poor posture, including stress, work environment, pregnancy and obesity. But the most common culprit is your sitting habits. If you have posture problems, take steps to address the underlying causes and position your spine correctly. To get started, check out our blog 3 Exercises To Strengthen Your Shoulders & Spine. We all sit too much. Stand up and move!

Whether you have a curved spine or simply poor posture, the spine experts at the Orthopedic Institute can help you manage it. Make an appointment today to see one of the members of our Comprehensive Spine Team