ZocdocAnswers"If I have mild scoliosis, could it be causing my severe back pain and headaches?"

Question

"If I have mild scoliosis, could it be causing my severe back pain and headaches?"

I was diagnosed with scoliosis some time ago, but it is mild and my doctor says it shouldn?t be causing me so much pain. My spine hurts really bad and now I have headaches. Could it be a tumor in my back?

Answer

Scoliosis, as you already know, is an abnormal curvature of the spine, which may develop as a single curve shaped like the letter C or as two curves shaped like the letter S. A curvature of the spine can definitely cause aches and pains due to misalignment of the core skeleton. The most common back pain that may relate to scoliosis is ligament and muscle pain due to the soft tissue structures being overstretched and damaged consequently leading to inflammation and fatigue of these structures. That said, a mild scoliosis is not typically painful. What is your age? The vast majority of adolescents with scoliosis experience no related pain. If you are an adolescent, such severe pain is concerning and may have other related abnormalities to your spine and musculature. On the other hand, activity-related musculoskeletal pain is much more common in adults with moderate to severe scoliosis. The adult spine undergoes degenerative changes, which reduce water content in the discs and produce inflammation in the joints. Nerve impingement or "pinched nerves" may occur as a result of a disc herniation. Another source of pain is arthritis of the facet joints. I think it is very unlikely that your scoliosis causes you so much pain. It is not possible to establish a diagnosis without an exam and imaging. I would recommend a consultation with a primary care doctor who may refer you to an orthopedist. A work up beyond plain X-rays may be ordered to establish the underlying cause of the curvature. In rare cases, a benign tumor of the spine known as osteoid osteoma can produce curvature of the spine and contribute to back pain. As well, a person can get referral pain to the back from abdominal organs. Thus, new pain not relieved by medication should be investigated immediately.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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