October 15, 2020

What does scoliosis look like?

Neck, Back and Spine


Scoliosis is a condition that affects the curvature of your spine, making it look like an unnatural “S” or “C” shape. Both children and adults can get scoliosis. Depending on the degree of curvature, the condition may require surgery.

OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. John Dietz, explains what the degree of the curve means and the different types of scoliosis curves.

Different Types of Scoliosis

There are several types of scoliosis depending on the cause of the curvature. If a patient has an underlying disease or condition, it can affect the curve. A patient can also develop scoliosis from a neurological disorder like cerebral palsy or a traumatic brain injury.

The most common type of scoliosis is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The word “adolescent” meaning it’s found in children and“idiopathic” indicates the cause of scoliosis is unknown.

Physicians don’t know exactly how this type of scoliosis happens.  Here’s what they do know about adolescent idiopathic scoliosis:

  • There is a genetic component contributing to it
  • It occurs equally in boys and girls
  • About 1% of the population has this kind of scoliosis
  • The curve progression happens four times faster in girls than boys
  • It shows up before puberty and has the highest chance of progressing the years of growth right after puberty
  • If the curve is severe, it can lead to heart and lung problems if it’s not caught early
  • When caught early enough, bracing can stop the curve from getting worst in 50% of children
  • A child will need surgery if the curve isn’t controlled

Scoliosis Treatment Options

Surgery is a last resort when treating scoliosis. Even if you notice a slight curve, make an appointment with a spine specialist. If you notice the curve while it’s small it  gives a scoliosis back brace a better chance for success.

According to Dr. Dietz, the chance of a curve getting bigger depends on how large the curve is and how much growing the patient has left.

  • A mild scoliosis curve is between 20 to 30 degrees. These patients are good candidates for back bracing
  • A severe scoliosis curve is a curve larger than 45 degrees. When it’s safer to have surgery than live your life with an increasing curve, your spine surgeon may suggest scoliosis surgery.

An adult or older child with a curve over 50 degrees should have surgery to stop the progression and gain correction. Although like any surgery, it has risks, living with progressing scoliosis can be much riskier.

If you are a parent, don’t feel bad about not detecting your child’s curve earlier.

“Often, when I see a child with scoliosis for the first time, , the parents feel terrible that they didn’t see the curve earlier,” Dr. Dietz said. “After all, we emphasize early detection and non-operative treatment.  But there is almost no way a parent is going to detect scoliosis in their child when the curve is very small.”

The smaller curves are difficult to detect, even by specialists. Your spine doctor will evaluate your scoliosis to give you the best treatment plan for your life.

To make an appointment with Dr. Dietz, please call 317.802.2875 or learn more about OrthoIndy Spine.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our  OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations  for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to  see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000
Gabby Carlson

By Gabby Carlson

Gabby is the current Marketing Content Writer at OrthoIndy. Gabby is responsible for writing a variety of content for our blog, magazine and inbound campaigns. Gabby graduated from Taylor University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing. She has been with OrthoIndy since October 2019.

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