“Scoliosis is … a term used to describe a spinal deformity, which presents as a sideways curve in the spine,” Neel Anand, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center, tells Bustle. “A [typical] spine is perfectly vertical, as if a line was drawn with a ruler on a piece of paper. But when scoliosis occurs, the spine can curve both ways, creating an S shape.”
Some people with scoliosis have a mild case, and thus don’t notice a curve, or any resulting symptoms. But if your curve is more severe, it can lead to pain, discomfort, walking issues, and even breathing issues. If you notice any of the subtle symptoms below, talk with your doctor. They will do an X-ray to determine if you do, in fact, have scoliosis, and prescribe some helpful treatment options from there.
1 One Of Your Shoulders Is Higher Than The Other
An easy way to spot scoliosis is by simply looking in the mirror, standing up straight, and checking to see if one of your shoulders appears to be higher than the other. “The appearance of uneven shoulders is a common symptom of … scoliosis sufferers,” says Anand. It often begins in childhood during a growth spurt, where the curvature of the spine shifts the natural alignment of the shoulders. “As a result, one shoulder blade appears more prominent than the other,” he says. Or, one shoulder may be higher.
2 Your Rib Cage Pops Out More On One Side
Along with uneven shoulders, you might notice that your rib cage pops out more on one side, causing an “uneven” look to your body. “This is due to the abnormal curve of the spine,” Dr. Scott Rosner, a Chiropractor at Wholebody Solutions, tells Bustle. “When a scoliosis is present, the spinal curve shifts laterally, or to the side. This creates a change in the associated structures, such as the pelvis and the ribcage, giving the uneven appearance.”
3 One Of Your Legs Seems Shorter Than The Other
If your spine is curved, it may “cinch” up one side of your body, causing one leg to appear shorter than the other. As Rosner says, you might notice that your pant legs always seem to be uneven, or that one hem trails on the floor, while the other doesn’t. This is, again, may be due to the shift in your spine, and the resulting unevenness in your body.