Symptoms of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Because pain is not usually a symptom of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), oftentimes the teen will not even notice the problem. Though the spine may curve sideways, in minor cases the curve is not obvious unless the patient is bending over so that the spine protrudes. With the increase in severity of the curve, and as the individual ages, the signs of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis may become more obvious.

Parents may notice signs when the child is standing straight. A few of these features are:

  • Head looks off-center from the body
  • Hip height or position is uneven: one side seems higher and one may stick out further
  • Shoulder height doesn’t match: one seems higher and one may stick out farther
  • Tilted pelvis
  • Visible difference in where the arms hang beside the body


Signs that are more noticeable when bending over are:

  • One arm hangs longer than the other because of a tilt in the torso
  • Hump on the back near the ribs or waist
  • Odd alignment of shoulder blades because the scoliosis causes a twist in the chest

An adolescent may report that clothing doesn’t fit correctly or hang straight.

The thoracic, or mid-spine, is the most common site of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, and there is often a deformity of the rib cage as well that can be apparent.       


Reviewed by: Kai-Ming Fu, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/Last updated: August 2021

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