ScoliSMART Logo
Testing and Nutrient Therapies for Kids

Detailed results with Doctor guided scoliosis-specific treatment options

ScoliSMART BootCamp & ScoliSMART Activity Suit

The innovative, non-invasive alternative scoliosis therapy.

Patient Results

Measurable curve reduction, improved quality of life, and pain relief.

Pain Management

Advanced long-lasting pain relief specific to scoliosis pain

Testing & Nutrient Therapies for Adults

Detailed results with Doctor guided scoliosis-specific treatment options

ScoliSMART Activity Suit

Reduces scoliosis pain and improves spinal curvature in adults

Adult BootCamp

The innovative, non-invasive alternative scoliosis therapy for adults

Patient Results

Measurable curve reduction, improved quality of life, and pain relief.

What is Scoliosis?


Dr. Clayton J. Stitzel


June 07, 2024

What is scoliosis?

This medical condition is characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can occur in both children and adults, and the severity of the curvature can vary. Treatment options include spinal bracing, specialized exercise programs (Scoliosis Boot Camp), and in severe cases, scoliosis surgery.

Idiopathic scoliosis, which makes up over 80% of all cases, has no known cause. Yet, that doesn’t mean we don’t know much about the condition or its treatment. Below is an up-to-date summary of facts.

It appears to be mostly driven by patterns of genetic variants. The 3-D change in the spine’s alignment — the spine curvature — is the primary and most obvious symptom of the condition. That is why it is a whole-body condition that requires a comprehensive treatment strategy, including diagnosis through a CT scan in certain cases. This is one of the great obstacles that has challenged health care professionals worldwide for centuries.

How Common Is Scoliosis?

The condition occurs most often in children aged 9 to 14, affecting females 7 times more than males. “Idiopathic Scoliosis” is (idiopathic being the most common type of scoliosis) a broad term that may describe a spinal curve of 10 degrees or higher. The curve occurs at different points of the spine in each case, but develops in 1 of 4 common curve patterns. It may or may not tilt the pelvis. The condition causes a bent spine, curvy spine, or even an S-shaped spine. It may only have a curve on one side, elevates one shoulder, or make one shoulder blade prominent. However, it is not life-threatening after the age of 5, prompting many doctors to conclude it does not need treatment. In most cases, the problem is diagnosed in children and adolescents between 10 to 18 years of age, with a higher likelihood of progression in girls. However, it can also occur in younger children, with a diagnosis of infantile or juvenile scoliosis.

sid new to scoliosis

What Is the Main Cause of Scoliosis?

Is scoliosis hereditary? Is scoliosis genetic? Curvature in the spine (“scoliosis” meaning “crookedness” and deformity) has been documented in medical records dating back to 450 BC. Historically, it has been considered and treated only like a spinal problem. But a growing and overwhelming volume of evidence supports curves of the spine are so much more than a curved spine. 

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis stems from a family history of genetic variant patterns. These affect and hormones. These combine to create an incorrect “posture memory” of spine alignment during periods of rapid growth. These risk factors can not be helps by bracing. These DNA findings are the suspected causes of the condition and result in a twisted spine. Non-invasive, home-collected saliva and urine samples can help determine if a diagnosis of scoliosis is likely or if the genetic risk factors that cause severe cases during puberty have been identified through research by the Scoliosis Research Society.

What Scoliosis Looks Like

Most patients lose some degree of curvature in their necks, resulting in forward head position. The sideways curve of the spine that is greater than 10 degrees. It causes the rib cage to twist and the normal curves of the spine to flatten. The curve looks twisted where the spine is curved when viewed from the front or side on x-ray, but the vertebrae appear twisted when viewed from the top down on MRI. Additionally, the issue can also cause neck pain and compensatory shortening of the muscles due to abnormal deviation of the sagittal profile. This can be seen in physical findings and symptoms of the condition.

Understanding the faulty “postural memory” of the spine on an x-ray is like watching the wind outside a window. You cannot actually see the wind, yet you can tell the direction and force in which it is blowing by the way it affects the grass, trees, and leaves.

what is scoliosis looks like

What type of scoliosis do you have?

1 Idiopathic scoliosis

The most common type of curvature. Idiopathic means of unknown origin. Depending on the age of onset, it may be infantile (birth to 3 years), juvenile (age 3 to 8), adolescence (age 9 to 18), or adults (after age 18). A physical examination is necessary to diagnose and determine the severity of the curvature.

2 Congenital scoliosis

These are rare cases, affecting the vertebral body of 1 in 10,000 babies in utero 

3 Neuromuscular or Syndromic Curvatures

Developed by children who have neuromuscular disorders like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy and may involve the brain or spinal cord, pediatric rehabilitation is a specialized field that focuses on improving the quality of life for children with disabilities.

4 Degenerative Curves

Adult scoliosis; a degenerative condition (often accompanied with arthritis and lower back back pain in older adults) that typically occurs after age 40.

What Are the Early Signs of Scoliosis?

Catching it early is critical because once a curve measures 25 degrees or more, there is a 68 percent chance the curve may get worse. You may detect it in its early stages by observing five different points on your child’s body. It is important to consult with a health care provider if you suspect your child may have an idiopathic curvature.

Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

  • Eye line Are your child’s eyes level or is the eye line tilted?
  • Shoulder level Do your child’s shoulders hang even or is one higher than the other?
  • Hips Are your child’s hips even or is one hip higher or more pronounced?
  • Forward head position When you look from the side, does your child’s mid-ear line up with the tip of the shoulder?
  • Head to hip line Would a line from the center of your child’s eyes line up horizontal to the center of the hips?

You may also use a detection method called Adam’s forward bend test. Have your child do a full forward bend to see if the rib cage (shoulder blade) sticks out on one side, especially on the right side. If your child appears out of line using any of these views, he or she may have a spinal curvature causing asymmetry. A trained expert physical therapy will help you determine if your child needs early-stage intervention. Make sure any evaluation includes a standing full spine x-ray or standing MRI.

Get Smart. Start ScoliSMART

Curvature of the spine often is associated with family history. Although progressive curvatures affect girls more often, your boys will be just as likely to develop it. Remind your pediatrician to check your children for a spine curve, especially if it runs in the family. Many parents are opting for genetic testing for idiopathic scoliosis in children who are still growing. This very simple and safe saliva test may predict if patients are at higher risk for severe curves, differentiate different types of scoliosis, determine their need for treatment, and even predict some of the symptoms of scoliosis based on a complete medical history.

Scoliosis Diagnosis and Tests

Various diagnostic tests aid in identifying idiopathic scoliosis, including a physical examination, observing the spine’s alignment, and assessing the curvature’s severity. Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans provide detailed views for accurate diagnosis. A complete medical history review, along with evaluating symptoms, helps in determining the type and extent of the curvature. The diagnosis process involves a comprehensive approach to analyze and understand the condition’s specifics.

Scoliosis Prevention and Management

Idiopathic scoliosis prevention involves early detection through screenings, especially during growth spurts. Management may include physical therapy to strengthen muscles and maintain flexibility. Monitoring the curvature is vital to track progression. In some cases, bracing can help prevent further curvature advancement. Surgical options like spinal fusion may be necessary for severe cases. Regular check-ups are essential to manage scoliosis effectively. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with exercises and proper posture is key to managing the condition.

real success story before and after X-ray

Importance of Early Intervention

Prompt attention is vital in addressing a curved spine. Neglecting the condition can result in various health problems, including long-lasting pain, breathing difficulties, and reduced mobility. Seeking medical help as soon as initial signs of spinal curvature appear can aid in identifying the root cause and administering appropriate treatment. It is worth noting that the available treatments may differ based on the extent of the curvature, and regular visits to a healthcare professional are necessary to monitor its progression and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment strategy. By actively pursuing early intervention measures, you can effectively manage your condition and enhance your overall quality of life.

What Will Happen If Scoliosis Is Not Treated Correctly?

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is a neurological-hormonal condition rooted in a genetic predisposition. This is vital when it comes to choosing treatments. Usually, an orthopedic doctor who only measures a Cobb angle will recommend:

  • No treatment or only observation.
  • They may recommend a rigid back brace for up to 23 hours a day for a curve measuring 25 to 40 degrees. Full time bracing is almost impossible for kids. Some find nighttime bracing to be more tolerable.
  • Surgical treatment to fuse the vertebra and reduce spinal deformity may be recommended for people with curves measuring over 50 degree Cobb angle. Unfortunately, injections and spinal fusion with metal rods often for severe curves leads to complications that include back pain, numbness along the incision following the backbone.

All three options may be limiting and frustrating to you and your child. These are not the only options, nor the best. The ScoliSMART Clinic doctors prefer to improve the patient’s posture memory in a way that reduces the curve. We don’t wait for a curve to get worse, use a rigid brace, or recommend spinal fusion surgery unless it is a last resort.

Scoli Fact-26

Click on the Scoli-Fact to see the rest of the Scoliosis Facts!

Scoliosis Complications

Idiopathic scoliosis can lead to several complications, like back pain, if left untreated. Severe cases may result in heart and lung damage due to the abnormal curve in the spine, affecting overall function. Chronic back pain and limited physical activities are common issues for patients with advanced curvatures. Additionally, psychological challenges such as low self-esteem can arise due to visible changes in posture. It is crucial to address scoliosis promptly to prevent these complications from impacting daily life.

Don’t Wait & Watch Mild Scoliosis

ScoliSMART Clinics doctors never recommend waiting and watching. This is because all large curves begin as small curves. This is a chronic, progressive condition. It often progresses throughout childhood and into adulthood. We recommend starting a posture memory retraining approach like Small Curve Camp as soon as your child’s curve is detected. 

A one-week “Small Curve Camp” program, followed by a home exercise program. Thousands of children have had their spinal curve reduced and progression stopped with this approach.

Don't let small curves become BIG curves

Do orthopedic specialists support the ScoliSMART Approach? 

Many surgeons recommend exercises for scoliosis. Detecting it early helps kids begin specific exercises to stop worsening, improve spine shape, and lessen curve. Starting treatment early is best for kids and adults to prevent severe scoliosis. It’s crucial to be updated on the latest treatment practices.

Scoliosis Treatment Options

Treatment has various options based on the person’s condition. It can include watching, using braces, or surgery. Physical therapy can help with posture and muscle strength. Bracing is useful for teens with moderate curvature to stop it from getting worse. Severe cases might need spinal fusion surgery. Many factors decide the best treatment plan.

Outlook and Prognosis for Scoliosis Patients

The outlook for patients varies based on age and curve severity. Early detection and treatment help. Bracing, therapy, or surgery can improve lives. Regular check-ups are crucial. Most patients have a good quality of life with proper care.

Living With Idiopathic Scoliosis

Living with this condition can be hard. Managing back pain and treatment choices is important. Regular check-ups, therapy, and a specific plan help keep the spine healthy. Getting support from doctors early on can really help sufferers. Knowing how posture and spinal care matter can improve daily life and health.


How Old is the Patient?

How Old is the Patient?

Your child can be one of the thousands of kids who have travelled from around the world and across the United States to Scoliosis Boot Camp!

Please schedule your No Cost Phone Consultation with the ScoliSMART Doctor of your choice.