Possible complications of scoliosis

Physical complications of scoliosis are rare. However, if left untreated, serious complications can develop.

Some problems scoliosis can cause are outlined below.

Emotional issues

Having a visibly curved spine or wearing a back brace can be difficult as it may cause problems related to body image, self-esteem and overall quality of life. This is particularly the case for children and teenagers with scoliosis.

Modern back braces are designed to be difficult to see under loose-fitting clothing. However, your child may still worry that they look different or unusual.

Encouraging your child to talk with other teenagers who have scoliosis can help improve their confidence and lessen any feelings they are alone with their condition.

There are several support groups, such as Scoliosis Association UK, that provide information and support for people with scoliosis. Some also host message boards so teenagers from across the world can compare experiences, share tips and exchange messages of encouragement.


If a severe case of scoliosis is left untreated, it can cause the upper spine to twist, resulting in a rounded or hunched back. This is known as kyphosis and will also cause back pain.

Lung and heart problems

In severe cases of scoliosis (where the curve is 70 degrees or more) the ribcage can be pushed against the heart and lungs, causing breathing problems and making it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.

In very severe cases of scoliosis (where the curve is 100 degrees or more) the ribcage will be pushed harder against the heart and lungs, causing physical damage. Strain or damage to the heart and lungs increases the chances of lung infections developing, such as pneumonia and heart failure.

Other back problems

Adults who had scoliosis when they were children are more likely to develop chronic (long-term) back pain. Those with scoliosis that is untreated are also more at risk of developing arthritis in their spine.   

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