What is Scoliosis

According to the Scoliosis Research Society “Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that measures greater than 10 degrees on x-ray. Instead of a straight line down the middle of the back, a spine with scoliosis curves sometimes looks like a letter “C” or “S.” Some of the bones in a spine with scoliosis may rotate, making the person’s waist or shoulders appear uneven.

Types of scoliosis

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis AIS is scoliosis of “unknown cause” and effects children ages 10-18 years, girls more often than boys.  AIS probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Studies suggest that the abnormal spinal curvature may be related to hormonal problems, abnormal bone or muscle growth, nervous system abnormalities, or other factors that have not been identified


Congenital Scoliosis Congenital is a condition present from birth.   Congenital scoliosis happens because the spine does not develop fully in utero .

Degenerative scoliosis is also known as  adult onset scoliosis.  Generally, degenerative scoliosis occurs in older adults as the joints between the vertebra in the spine degenerate.   Degenerative scoliosis can cause stiffness and pain in the back and down the one or both legs.

Neuromuscular scoliosis can develops in individuals who loose mobility due to a neuromuscular condition such as Muscular Dystrophy or Cerebral Palsy.

How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

At first glace scoliosis can be difficult to detect.

scoliosis back

A closer look will show asymmetries from the left to right side of the body.

identifying ear height scoliosis

A forward bend test, (Adams test), will show a rib hump on the side where the ribs are rotated backwards.

X-Ray & Cobb Angle

Cobb's angle x-ray measuring at 70 degrees

A Scoliosis diagnosis is confirmed with a  standing x-ray of the entire spine.  The angle of the curve is called the Cobb angle. A straight spine has a curve of 0º; however, a spinal curve greater than 10º is diagnosed as scoliosis.

Between 0º and 10º is considered “postural asymmetry” which is not true scoliosis.

An X-ray from the side is used to determine thoracic kyphosis (or round back appearance) and the amount of lumbar lordosis (swayback).

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