If you've had bad posture your whole life, it could just be a habit of yours to lean and slouch. And while that isn't the best — for your back, or your confidence — it's usually nothing to worry about. Do keep in mind, however, that your bad posture could be a sign of scoliosis, especially if you also have back pain, walking issues, and/or weird asymmetry in your body.
While scoliosis may not spring to mind, it definitely can be the cause of these issues. And since it's often worse in women and girls, the sooner you catch it the better. "Gender plays a role, though not necessarily in the rate of development, but in the severity of the condition," Neel Anand, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center, tells Bustle.
Surgery is necessary in the most severe cases. But usually, there are less invasive treatment options available. "Treating scoliosis depends on the extent of your curve and your age," says Dr. Chris Tomshack, founder and CEO of HealthSource – America’s Chiropractor. "If the curve needs to be corrected, a brace is usually the first option, which helps to reduce pain and pressure, relieve tension, improve posture, and enhance mobility." He tells me it's also helpful to see a chiropractor for adjustments and therapies, as well as for relief from pain and to improve posture. Read on for some subtle signs it may be time to make an appointment.
1. Your Shirts Never Button Up Evenly
Slouching can cause the buttons on your shirt to look a bit uneven. But this subtle issue can be due to scoliosis, too. "People with scoliosis (or their family and friends) will often notice that their clothing appears to be uneven," Dr. Joshua Marty, a chiropractor and co-founder of Marty Chiropractic & Wellness, tells Bustle. "Scoliosis can cause the shoulders and the hips to be uneven, making clothes appear to be uneven as well."
2. The Rest Of Your Body Looks Uneven, Too
Shirt buttons aside, scoliosis can cause your whole body to look uneven, too. As Anand tells me, you might have uneven shoulders, uneven hips, asymmetry of the back, and one shoulder blade that appears to be higher than the other. You might even notice, when looking in the mirror, that your head seems to be slightly off-center. These are all signs of scoliosis, and not just bad posture.
3. You've Never Been Able To Touch Your Toes
If you're the worst when it comes to flexibility, take note. "The changes in the spine’s normal curvature can lead to a loss in range of motion," Marty says. "This can make it difficult to participate in certain sports or activities, or just add difficulty to everyday activities, such as tying shoes or getting dressed." When your spine isn't straight, these annoying issues are likely to occur.
4. Your Ribs Poke Out On One Side
If your ribs seem to be more noticeable on one side, you may have what's known as a rib hump. "As the thoracic spine curves to one side, the ribs follow the rotation of the spine and become more prominent," Marty says. "This is most noticeable when bending at the waste, but may also be noticed while laying face down, receiving a massage for example."
5. It's Sometimes Difficult To Breathe Properly
While some people with scoliosis can go about their daily lives without much problem, others experience scary symptoms, like trouble breathing. "In more severe scoliosis, the ribs will often rotate and cause a decreased space for the lungs. This can make it harder to breathe," Marty says. "The heart may also have less room to pump blood, and this can lead to cardiovascular problems down the road." If this sounds familiar, definitely seek treatment, ASAP.
6. It's Not Always Easy For You To Walk
If you've ever struggled to walk — maybe your gait just don't feel right, or you get tired easily — take it as a sign. "When the spine abnormally twists and bends sideways, it can cause the hips to go out of alignment, which can change how a person walks," Tomshack says. "It can cause someone to tire sooner, because they are constantly trying to maintain balance for uneven hips and legs."
7. There's A Nagging Pain In Your Back
Due to the spine being out of place, some scoliosis sufferers feel a nagging, pulling, or even stabbing pain in their back. As Marty says, "In severe curves, the muscles in the back can develop local inflammation and be prone to spasm." This can happen throughout the day, but often feels worse if you've been sitting for awhile.
8. Bad Posture Runs In Your Family
If bad posture seems to run in your family, it might be a sign that scoliosis is to blame. "Scoliosis is a genetic risk that is passed from family member to family member," Dr. Steven Anagnost tells Bustle. "The worse a family member’s scoliosis is, the worse your risk is. If a family member has a large curve, then there is a higher risk that you will have a large curve."
9. People Have Always Told You To Stop Slouching
If you have mild scoliosis — usually the kind that's only detectable via Xray — you likely won't have many symptoms. But if your case is more severe, you (and others) will probably notice bad posture, as well as other aches and pains. "A smaller subset of patients will have a more pronounced scoliosis that can be seen without an Xray," Dr. Justin Park, a spine specialist at Mercy, tells Bustle. "Associated symptoms include severe back and/or leg pain, the appearance of the patient stooping forward, or tilting/leaning off to one side."
10. One Shoe Is More Worn Out Than The Other
Due to gait issues, and the asymmetry in your body, don't be surprised if little things in your life always seem off-kilter. As Dr. Scott Rosner, a chiropractor at WholeBody Solutions, says, "Some day-to-day things that might identify scoliosis: one pant leg may seem longer than another, one shoe may wear more when compared to the other side, and a shirt arm length may seem longer or shorter when compared to the other side."
11. Your Bras Never Seem To Fit Right
While lots of women struggle with the fit of their bra, scoliosis can make this issue even worse. "With woman, bra's fit funny, or have to constantly be adjusted to reposition it," says Dr. Dean Hoppenrath, a chiropractor at Wilmington Chiropractic Inc.
Keep in mind that back pain, trouble walking, and asymmetry in your body are not symptoms you should ignore. If you do have scoliosis, it can get worse over time. So get yourself an Xray, talk with your doctor about some treatment options, and hopefully you'll start feeling better soon.
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