Scoliosis or curvature of the spine can cause upper back pain.  It can also cause pain in your mid-back and other parts of your body.  But, you may not have to have it!

Scoliosis can very often be helped by a neuromuscular specialist.  But there are different types of practitioners.

Is your therapiet a doctor? Massage therapist? Physio- or physical therapist?  Different therapists have different training (or lack of) and different ideas.  They may or may not agree with what I say.  They may or may not know much about muscles!

Scoliosis can have a few different causes but muscle imbalance is the most common.

Shall I tell you about the scoliosis I used to have?

I had a lot of intense, deep muscle therapy as well as movement to the bones of my head (because they were also involved) and I only have a small amount of scoliosis left. What’s left is not enough to bother me.

And it certainly won’t put me in a wheelchair like it did my aunt!

I wear arch supports in my shoes to help keep me balanced because I had one flat arch. That may have been a result of the scoliosis or perhaps it helped cause it.  It’s easy to wear arch supports (orthotics.)

I do stretches to help maintain the corrections.  It’s easy to do stretches when you understand which way to stretch.

Here’s how I used to be:

If I would lay on my back before I started treatment and place my two hands toward the ceiling and together, my right fingers were over 1″ closer to the ceiling than my left fingers. I thought I had one long arm but I was wrong. I was just twisted so much.

The neckline of my shirt was never straight and my left shoulder always hurt at the neck.

Every body is different but almost all bodies are correctable if you have the right therapist.  If you do NOT correct your scoliosis (I’m talking naturally not surgically) it will continue to get worse over time.  That’s a law of nature.

I don’t want you to end up in a wheelchair like my aunt, either.

Do you live in the US? Is it possible that you could go to Florida for therapy? That’s where a very excellent therapist is. He’s the one who treated me.

That therapist is Paul St. John and the website for his clinic is I’m sure all of the therapists there would be very good but Paul is “The Man.”  There are also neuromuscular massage therapists in other parts of the country and world who have been trained by Paul.

So it depends on the cause of the scoliosis but I’ll be willing to bet that most scoliosis can be corrected or improved in the hands of the right therapist.

And, if you can’t go to see Paul or find a skilled therapist, the self-help program at can help you assess your scoliosis and take steps to get rid of your pain at home.  Many people have had good success stopping their scoliosis symptoms with that program.  🙂   You could be next!


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11 Comments on Scoliosis Causes Upper Back Pain

  1. Twitter Tweets about upper back pain as of July 21, 2010 | BACK PAIN TWEETS says:

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  2. Alex says:

    I have scoliosis it’s S shaped and I have HUGE crunchy knots in my shoulders/shoulder blades they cause like muscle spasms and twitches in my shoulders and arms sometimes. My curve also goes into my neck abit which gets really tight and when I tilt my head and move it left to right it crunches really loud almost like the bone is grinding or something. That’s not all.. I get lower back pain when I have to stand for to long and on about 3 of my vertebrae are extremely sore to the slightest touch. I hate scoliosis I’m 18 and feel like a crippled I just want pain relief. I’m constantly getting the strongest codein combinations of pain killers cause i get tight muscle which gives me a headache then that will turn into a migraine. nd they don’t work everytime anyway. Not only that but I had to wear 3 different back braces 22 hours a day for my high school years which was not fun. Only for my curve to get better from 42 to 29 and as soon as I got off it went straight back up to 39 last time I checked it like a year ago.. I’m getting orthotics which I hope will help but there has to be more I can do.. Please help I’m heaps confused

  3. Hi Alex, You are not the only one confused about your scoliosis. Most doctors don’t understand the causes or know much about it, either.

    1. Everyone has some type of dysfunction or scar. Some show, some don’t. So, you are not alone.
    2. Pain meds will not help you get rid of the curvature in your spine. But you already know that.
    3. The reason your curves came back after the brace was removed is because nothing happened to change the original causes of your scoliosis.
    4. Some people have scoliosis because of a imbalance in the structure of the pelvic bones, leg bones or spine bones. Since you are complaining of an S-curve, I’m betting it starts in the structure of your lower body.
    5. Look at your feet when you are standing as straight and upright as you can. Do you have an arch in each foot? Or is one flat?
    6. Look in the mirror. Do you have bluejeans and a belt? Use the pockets of the jeans and the belt as markers. Can you see one pocket more than the other side? Is your belt tilted down to one side? Those are clues that your scoliosis starts in your feet or leg bones. Travell & Simons MD’s state that a leg length difference of 1/8″ or more becomes critical to our health. Even that little of a difference will throw us into dysfunction and start scoliosis.
    8. There are excellent massage therapists who can help correct your scoliosis. is the address for Paul St. John who is a genius in looking at the structure of the body and making manual corrections. I suspect his colleagues are also very talented. They are muscle therapists. He is in FL and he helped me get rid of my own scoliosis and I have watched him straighten out others, too. This kind of therapist starts with a postural assessment to determine from where the dysfunction or asymmetry starts. (As opposed to just treating symptoms as much of conventional medicine does.) And then this therapy addresses the areas of muscle that pull your spine into curves.

    Even after you are straighter, you will have to take action to stay straight. This may mean a lift on the whole bottom of one shoe (no one ever notices) and stretching in the correct directions and in the correct proportions.

    I hope this helps. Please feel free to write again with more questions.

    The knots are symptoms. The scoliosis is a symptom of something. Gotta get to the root of the problem so you can feel better and straighten your scoliosis naturally.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  4. Farah says:

    I have mild scoliosis and it’s bent convex to the left in the upper back.
    I have been to a doctor and a physiotherapist and they both have said
    That I might have been born with it. I have a lot of back pain and I’m confused
    Because I read about scoliosis and articles say it doesn’t cause back pain ?
    Im wondering if I treat it now, by the way I’m 17, if I treat it from now will it
    Still get worse with age or better ? My physiotherapist says my spine won’t ever
    Straighten again, and I don’t really understand what most of the articles are saying.
    I live in Australia and would really like it if someone told me the answer to my question

  5. Hi Farah,

    Your scoliosis is then concave to the right since you said it’s convex to the left in the upper back. Have you seen the x-rays? Is your lower back perfectly straight to your shoulder blades? It’s okay to ask the doctor or physio about this.

    If it’s not, that means the cause is lower in your back or legs. But if your hips and legs are level and not rotated then it could only be in the upper part of your back.

    If a spine bone (vertebrae) is mis-shaped that could throw you off and create the scoliosis. That would have been since birth.

    However, if this has only started to bother you in the last couple of years, it may most likely be from muscles pulling on the spine. That’s what muscles do–they move bones.

    And in the case of scoliosis, they are tighter and pulling more on one side than on the other. That’s what causes the curve in the spine.

    Imagine this: Close your eyes. Lean WAY over to one side as far as you can without falling. Stay there for a few minutes until you start to feel muscles straining to hold you up.

    Then shake your body a bit to help it relax and get back to your normal.

    So, if you have scoliosis you are leaning all the time! Of course that would cause muscle strain and pain! Of course!

    My pain wasn’t in my back. My pain was in my shoulder and neck. And in my head. My body was complaining about the twists and turns in my spine. My scoliosis was caused by a difference in leg lengths and one flat foot.

    So maybe you have one or two vertebrae that are malformed. Maybe not. If it is, massage and stretching can still help even though it won’t get totally rid of the curvature.

    Maybe it’s just muscles. Could you go to a really knowledgeable massage or muscle therapist? Ask them to work on the muscles in the concave area. The muscles on the concave side are the short muscles that are pulling on the spine. Maybe the physio could do this if he or she understood a little more about muscles?

    Here’s something you can do at home. Try to pinpoint the concave area. Try to figure out ways to stretch those muscles. Look at muscle charts of the spine and back muscles to help you see in your mind what you are stretching. It will be the muscles on that side of your body near your arm pit and spine.

    Stretching all sides of your body is good but stretch the shortest muscles 4x as much. That’s what creates a correction.

    Over time scoliosis will get worse just because of gravity. When we are in neutral gravity has a harder time grabbing us. When we are out of neutral (scoliosis) it’s easier for gravity to pull us into distortions.

    I hope this helps you understand a little better, Farah. It is wise of you to ask and to take charge of taking care of your body. And remember, I’m not a doctor. 🙂

    And what do you mean by ‘treat it now?” If you mean surgery, I vote no. If you mean a brace, it depends on where the scoliosis starts. If it starts lower in your hips or legs, the brace won’t help for long. Please write again if you have more questions about getting rid of your scoliosis naturally.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  6. Janessa Newsome says:

    i have it scoliosis and lower back pain and both of my shoulders hurt, but when i go to bed i cant sleep straight. i feel like my shoulders are the problem. i really dont know what to do. i told my foster mom and all she says is to wait till i get older because i will have alot of pain.

  7. Dear Janessa,

    You said you have a curvature in your spine. You have pain in your lower back and in your shoulders. Here is my best long distance guess because I can’t see what you look like.

    The pain in your lower back may be caused by a difference in the length of your legs. Look in the mirror. Look from side to side at your hips. Do they look like the same height? Put your thumbs on the front top of your hip bones where there is a little point of bone that sticks out. Look down. Do your thumbs look like they are in the same place or is one hip closer to the wall in front of you?

    Here’s something you can do that may help your muscles relax:

    Lay in bed on your back. Use a pillow for your head if you have to in order to be fairly comfortable. You can also place a pillow under your knees if you want. You can have your arms next to you or on your chest.

    Next, shift your hips so one is a little closer to the shoulder on the same side. Then, shift the opposite way so the other hip is closer to the other shoulder. Hip up, hip down, hip up, hip down. Try to get a rhythm going. It does NOT have to be big movements–little movements are just fine. In fact, little movements are the best.

    Pretend your spine is a snake. Can you shift the top of your spine a little from side to side? Can you make the snake move? Little movements are fine.

    Do these little movements for a few minutes each. The idea is to help your muscles relax. You can do them a few times each day. They will become easier after a few days.

    Back to the mirror.

    When you look in the mirror does one shoulder look closer to the mirror? That means the muscles in the front of that shoulder are tighter and need to relax and be stretched. And it might not be just the shoulder. It might be the muscles all the way down to your hip on that side. Stretch that arm and shoulder backwards. Try over your head. Try next to your body moving your arm like a butterfly.

    When you look in the mirror does one shoulder look higher than the other? Sometimes you can tell most easily if you place a straight finger on each shoulder top pointing at each other and look at the fingers.

    Let me know what you discover about your body and how the little movements work for you. The more clues I have, the easier it is for me to come up with suggestions that can help you feel more comfortable with your scoliosis.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  8. Monet says:

    Kathryn, i have been experiencing upper back pain since my college years and it’s in the spine 6 inches below the back of my neck. About 6 yrs later i noticed a bulge in my right side of the back. My sister says i have a mild scolio but i dont know why my pain is in the upper spine. Is it because it is twisting due to the scolio? I always have my husband put pressure on my back so it cracks sometimes and it gives temporary relief. Thanks Kathryn you are very generous to share your experiences and knowledge.

  9. Monet says:

    I am 45 yrs old now and i wonder if my scolio will get worse over the years. It doesnt really bother me much except at night sometimes when the pain is intolerable.

  10. Hi Monet, Good question about scoliosis. The sad truth is, yes, the curvature in your spine will most likely get worse over the years, due to gravity pulling on you and due to your habits. BUT you can take steps to stretch the short areas of your spine and strengthen your back; you can make sure that you sit straight, not leaning to one side; you can make sure that you wear a lift in your shoe if you have a short leg or one flat foot; you can sit on a pad that fits under your ‘sit bone’ on one side if you or a therapist determines that it helps you sit straighter/more level.

    You see, there are steps we can take to help reduce the scoliosis curves in our spines. You are only 45. Young. Don’t give up. You may need help from a massage therapist who knows how to ‘go into the holes’ of your spine and help the muscles in those ‘holes’ relax. You can learn movements as in the Feldenkrais program which will help your whole body relax. An instructor of Feldenkrais verbally instructs students in little tiny movements. It takes a long time (one or two hours) to complete a sequence but you will end up feeling so relaxed! Between you and me, feeling like a pancake is a good thing!

    And the bonus is that you will feel better now, too.

    Take good care of yourself, Monet. I hope this helps.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  11. Thank you, Monet. I appreciate your comment. And thank you for giving me more information about your scoliosis. You are right handed? Try switching things (like your mouse) to your left hand. I am making a long distance bet that you have pain under your shoulder blade, on your dominant side? Ask your dear husband to grab the muscle just outside your shoulder blade and lift and pinch it. That’s a quick way to help the muscle that is tight to relax. Ask him to grab as much ‘meat’ as he can and hold it for about 20 seconds and then gently, gradually let go. It will not be comfortable for you. That means the muscle is tight and needs to relax. About 20 minutes after he lets go of the muscle, you will notice that it’s really not so tight anymore. 🙂

    Thank you for your questions.

    The Pain Relief Coach