Chronic pain and limited function are two common signs of scoliosis in adults. You may have chronic back, neck or hip pain and not realize it’s caused by degenerative scoliosis because your spinal curve isn’t noticeable. Or, you may have had adolescent scoliosis and been told it doesn’t progress in adulthood. It turns out that adult scoliosis is much more prevalent than we thought.

Idiopathic scoliosis, which means of unknown cause, typically peaks in adolescence while the skeleton is still maturing. The condition can advance rapidly in your teen and pre-teen years. It’s a myth that scoliosis doesn’t progress in your adult years. Scoliosis progression is milder after your spine is developed—one to three degrees a year—yet that progression can be substantial over a couple decades.

If you don’t have adolescent scoliosis progressing bit by bit, you may still be one of many adults suffering from degenerative, or de novo scoliosis. A 2005 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine says 68 percent of people older than 60 show signs of degenerative scoliosis. These results are startling because the medical community previously thought about 30 percent of adults experience degenerative scoliosis. Even 30 percent is considerably higher than the 3-5 percent of adolescents who get the condition.