Non-Invasive Treatment Options for Moderate to Severe Scoliosis


Dr. Clayton J. Stitzel


January 13, 2023

If your child has moderate or surgical level scoliosis, it may seem like it’s too late to correct the curvature of the spine without drastic measures like a brace or fusion surgery. Unfortunately, many parents of children with moderate or severe idiopathic scoliosis feel like they have few options.

Outdated scoliosis brace protocols rob kids of their childhood. Kids generally don’t even wear the back brace more than 10% of the recommended time. Those who do report lifelong physical and psychological scars and trauma from the experience.

Doctors often recommend surgery for large spine curvatures. “Severe scoliosis” is generally considered 50 degrees or more on x-ray, however, vertebral body tethering may be recommended at 40 degree scoliosis depending on the patient’s stage of skeletal growth. All scoliosis surgery is very invasive and spinal fusion has a high rate of long-term complications.  Parents and patients are demanding new and better treatments for scoliosis.


“Patients with moderate or “surgical level” scoliosis now have less invasive options than back braces or fusion surgery.”

– Clayton J. Stitzel DC

Table of Contents

The difference between mild, moderate, and surgical level scoliosis

More than 80 percent of cases are adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, meaning the cause of scoliosis remain unknown. In its early stages, the condition is “mild scoliosis” because the curvature is less than 25 degrees. A person of any age may have “early stage scoliosis”. Moderate curvature of the spine is if the condition progresses and the spine curve reaches 25-50 degrees. Curves measuring over 50 degrees are considered a severe curvature of the spine. Patients with 80 to 90 degree scoliosis curve may begin to experience a decrease in lung function.  It should be noted, these guidelines for a brace and surgical treatment may vary depending on the type of scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis from abnormal vertebrae development, spina bifida (which affects the vertebrae and spinal cord), neuromuscular scoliosis from cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, or degenerative scoliosis in older adults with osteoporosis or arthritis have unique symptoms of scoliosis and spinal deformity risk factors which may require a more aggressive treatment protocols due to their higher risk severe cases.

Back bracing and surgery are invasive treatment options

A brace will likely be recommended if your child has a moderate spinal curve. Back braces are only attempting to treat the curve, not the scoliosis condition itself. Read that again, a brace does not treat the underlying scoliosis condition. Also, it often causes muscle degeneration and back pain, as well as psychological stress. 

Scoliosis is usually detected in adolescence at the onset of puberty, ages 9-14, although it may start earlier. Your child could even have a moderate curve before the condition is discovered. Unfortunately, many mild curves often go unnoticed unless the child has back pain. So, a doctor may recommend your child wear a hard brace the recommended number of hours per day (23) before you have the time to research treatments! Some specialists have started recommending back braces for adult in hopes it will reduce back pain.

Spinal fusion surgery with metal rods may be recommended when a curve is severe, which is defined by a cobb angle 50 degrees or more on x-ray. The recommendation for surgery is only a guideline and is often subjective. This is a major concern for parents and patients making decisions about scoliosis treatment. Surgical treatment is primarily intended for cosmetic improvement. Even a very severe curve is rarely life-threatening.  

Unfortunately, spinal fusion has many long-term complications. Many people don’t experience scoliosis pain until many years after surgery. That’s one of many reasons ScoliSMART doctors don’t recommend surgery unless all non-invasive treatment possibilities have failed to stop the spine curve. Get free recommendations on how to avoid scoliosis surgery sent to your email.

Getting to the root cause of moderate to severe scoliosis

  • Although idiopathic scoliosis means “having no known cause”, we know that the condition is linked to genetic variants. These variants act like “scratches” on the genetic record. The result are hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances during adolescent growth spurts. This inability to keep up with the pace of growth creates an incorrect “posture memory” causing the curve.

Scoliosis BootCamp stops scoliosis progression

We have the greatest success with the ScoliSMART approach before curves reach 30 degrees. Scoliosis curve progression skyrockets at that point. Yet, our Scoliosis Boot Camp programs help people of all ages with curves of all severity. During our 5 to 10 day programs, we create a unique treatment plan for kids and adults with the condition. 

The goal of individual programs is to:

  • Stabilize the existing curve
  • Create positive momentum in the right direction
  • Teach the patient how to do scoliosis exercises effectively on their own
  • Reduce the scoliosis curvature 
  • Provide the patient with a home scoliosis rehab plan for long lasting results

Our specialized equipment and exercises reduce the rigidity of scoliosis so you or your child’s curve is more flexible. This pain free process allows us to untwist the spine and reduce its curve. Scoliosis exercises that create new posture memory are the most important aspect of your child’s treatment. This is a key part of long-term scoliosis treatment results.

To learn more about how to treat the whole scoliosis condition and not only the curve, connect with our passionate providers at ScoliSMART. To explore a non-brace/ non-surgical treatment for your child’s scoliosis problem, you may schedule a no-cost Zoom or phone consultation with a ScoliSMART doctor. Please get in touch with us today!

Your child deserves a more modern approach for treating scoliosis.

We urge you to consider all of your options before accepting a recommendation of a brace or surgery. 

Stiff back braces lead to muscle deterioration and rapid scoliosis progression once that treatment ends. (Your child cannot wear a brace forever.) 

Spinal surgery is risky and causes long-term pain, as well as complications because it doesn’t “cure” the underlying condition. 

Talk to a ScoliSMART doctor about reducing your child’s scoliosis curve without painful, invasive treatment. You both deserve a better way to treat the WHOLE condition.

Understanding Moderate Vs Surgical Level Scoliosis

Adolescent scoliosis is one of those tricky conditions that can evade detection for a long time after it develops. Its subtle symptoms of scoliosis are often dismissed until a rapid growth phase causes the spine’s abnormal curve to suddenly worsen and create bad posture and body image concerns. In some cases, the angle of the curve can create lower back discomfort and chronic pain. 

Even then, scoliosis can continue to fly under the radar while the curve progresses. In one study, patients with moderate to surgical level scoliosis went undiagnosed more than 10 percent of the time until physical examination or x-ray discovers the signs of scoliosis.

Difference between Moderate Vs Surgical Level Scoliosis

Normally, a doctor would begin monitoring the curve while it’s still mild and recommend taking action only after the condition reaches the moderate threshold. If the curve becomes severe while the child’s spine is still growing, surgery might be suggested. But for parents of children whose scoliosis isn’t detected until it has already become moderate or severe, the shock of the initial diagnosis might immediately be followed by pressure to put their children in an around-the-clock back brace or consider highly invasive spinal fusion surgery.

Parents whose heads are still reeling from a diagnosis of severe or moderate scoliosis — as well as those who have watched helplessly while their children’s spines rapidly deteriorated — need to understand that bracing and surgery aren’t the only way to treat moderate to severe curves. In fact, it bears repeating: It’s not too late to treat your child’s scoliosis without resorting to bracing or surgery.

What is Moderate Scoliosis?

Once a scoliosis curve has reached the 25-40 degree range, it’s considered moderate. Moderate scoliosis treatment usually involves wearing a rigid brace that forces the spine back into alignment in an attempt to prevent the curve from progressing further.

If it sounds like a drastic treatment decision, that’s because it is. A brace can be traumatic and painful for a growing teen — and what’s worse, it’s a cosmetic fix that often fails to prevent surgical level scoliosis from developing.

What is Surgical Level Scoliosis?

A curve measuring over 50 degrees qualifies as surgical level scoliosis. This is when many doctors will urge parents to consider spinal fusion surgery, a highly invasive procedure that poses many risks, often fails to achieve any long-term benefits, and usually leaves patients with a poorer quality of life than that with which they started when compared to completely untreated patients. 

Many parents who consent to surgery do so because they feel they have no other option. But treatment for scoliosis doesn’t have to involve surgically altering your child’s spine. In fact, there are cutting-edge treatment programs that have proven more effective than both bracing and surgery at halting scoliosis progression and reducing spinal curvature.

Treatment for Moderate to Surgical level Scoliosis

One of the problems with braces and surgery is that they attempt to correct the main symptom of scoliosis — the curve — rather than addressing the underlying factors that propel the condition.

Through unique exercises, nutritional support and a combination of other treatments, ScoliSMART’s “Scoliosis Boot Camp” program helps patients with even severe or moderate scoliosis create new muscle memory and permanently reduce their curvature. The weeklong program aims to:

  • Stabilize and reduce the spinal curve
  • Reduce soft tissue resistance
  • Reposition the spinal column
  • Re-train the brain’s posture memory

The Scoliosis BootCamp program can have a significant impact on severe or moderate scoliosis. Treatment doesn’t have to be painful or invasive, regardless of how advanced your child’s curve is. Contact ScoliSMART today to learn more about stopping scoliosis in its tracks.

Online consultation scheduling is available!

Don’t know where to start?  Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.”  (No x-ray required)

ScoliSMART Clinics is committed to treating the WHOLE scoliosis condition, not only the curve. Genetic & clinical testing with targeted nutrient therapies, expert in-office treatment programs, and the world’s only ScoliSMART Activity Suit provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive, most effective, and least invasive treatment options available worldwide.