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Scoliosis is a condition that affects the spinal cord, causing it to curve sideways into a C or S shape. Side effects include back pain and impaired movements. In more severe cases, scoliosis can impair normal functionality, including breathing. Most cases are considered mild, but each condition is monitored closely. Surgery may be recommended but it is uncommon for curves less than 40°.


Scoliosis may be determined through physical examination or imaging such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scans. From here, the degree of curvature is estimated using the Cobb angle, a method for tracking progression of the condition. Significant curves are those that exceed 25 degrees.

Along with the curvature, the spinal cord’s maturity may also be measured using the Risser sign. Maturity is separated into grades of 1-5 and can be useful for determining the likelihood of developing scoliosis.

For more information about prognostication, Lonstein and Carlson further explore the significance of Cobb angle and Risser sign in this study.


Not every case of scoliosis includes a known cause. Many reasons cases can be attributed to genetics, birth defects, Marfran syndrome, or cerebral palsy. Other possible causes include tumors and infections.


Not all these symptoms are direct indicators of scoliosis, but if they do present themselves, further testing may be required:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Uneven waist
  • Offset eye alignment
  • Tilted body shape


Treatment varies by the degree of curvature. Physicians determine a course of treatment after the degree of curvature has been determined.

Mild scoliosis may require no treatment at all. Other cases, where the curvature is prominent, could require further imaging. In adolescent cases, a brace may be recommended to straighten the spine. Braces can be worn for years or until a growth spurt ends. More extreme cases of scoliosis will require surgery to realign the spine. Surgery may be recommended to help manage pain and correct severe spinal curvature.

Click here to learn more about spinal care at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics.

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