Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine bends to the side abnormally; either to the right or left. The curvature can be moderate to severe. Any part of the spine can be bent in scoliosis; but the most common regions are the chest area (thoracic scoliosis) or the lower part of the back (lumbar scoliosis). 80% of cases there is no known cause.
Scoliosis most typically occurs in individuals 10 to 18 years old and is often detected by school screenings or regular physician visits. A medical professional will look for:
Curvature of the spine
Uneven shoulders, or protrusion of one shoulder blade
Asymmetry of the waistline
One hip higher than the other
Once scoliosis is detected, a physician will continue to monitor the curvature. The progression of spinal curvature is very well understood and is measured in degrees.
Mild curvature that remains at 20 degrees or less will most likely require monitoring and observation, but further treatment is rarely needed. Curvature greater than 20 degrees may require non-surgical or surgical intervention, including treatments such as a back brace for scoliosis or scoliosis surgery, both of which prevent further progression of the curve.
Preventing severe curvature is important for the physical appearance and health of the patient. Curves greater than 50 degrees are more likely to progress in adulthood. If a curve is allowed to progress to 70 to 90 degrees, it will produce a disfiguring deformity.
A high degree of curvature may also put the patient at risk for cardiopulmonary compromise as the curve in the spine rotates the chest and closes down the space available for the lungs and heart.