Scoliosis - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for spine curvature to determine if you have scoliosis. In some cases, imaging tests may also be necessary to further investigate your condition.

  • Physical examination. During a physical examination, you will begin by standing still with your arms at your sides. You will then be asked to bend forward as your doctor checks for spine curvature in your lower and upper back. Your shoulders and waist will also be examined to check if they are symmetrical.
  • X-ray. This is a diagnostic procedure that uses small amounts of radiation to create a picture of your spine. Radiography is used both to confirm the scoliosis and rule out any underlying conditions.
  • MRI scan. Your doctor may recommend an MRI scan if you experience pain, weakness or loss of reflexes. An MRI can help rule out tethered cord syndrome and congenital malformations, such as a syrinx and/or Chiari malformations.

How is scoliosis treated?

Treatment for idiopathic scoliosis may include:

  • Wearing a brace to prevent worsening of the spinal curve. This does not reduce the curve that is already present.
  • Observation for mild curves that are less than 25 degrees.

Treatment for degenerative scoliosis may include:

  • Spine surgery, for growing children with curves that are greater than 40 degrees, and for curves that are more than 50 degrees at any age.

This is usually recommended to treat severe pain that is unrelieved by conservative means, such as physiotherapy, bracing and medication, and nerve impingement from degenerative changes in the spine.

Spine surgery to treat scoliosis can also:

  • Prevent further worsening of the curve
  • Control the curve when brace treatment is unsuccessful
  • Improve the cosmetic appearance
  • Reduce discomfort or postural tiredness

Scoliosis cannot be corrected by simply learning to sit or stand up straight. Consult a specialist to determine the treatment method most suitable for you.

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