Fast Facts on Scoliosis

What is scoliosis?

The lateral curve of the spine with rotation, which can also impact the ribs since these are connected to the spinal column. 3 million new cases are diagnosed every year in the US, most commonly affected are females ages 10-12.

Genetic link: children of a parent who has scoliosis is found to be 3x more likely to have it themselves, and 7x more likely if a sibling has been diagnosed.

3 different types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic → an unknown cause
  • Neuromuscular → secondary to a neurologic condition such as spina bifida
  • Congenital → present at birth

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosed via an x-ray, the doctor will determine the Cobb angle, this is a value of how many degrees the patient’s spine is curved.

Other tests you may see:

  • Forward bend test → the clinician can assess how much rotation is involved and measure for this
  • Observation → elevation of the shoulders, shoulder blades, hips and differences in leg length may lead to further investigation

What are my treatment options?

    • Physical Therapists have the knowledge and tools to help prevent growth of the curve, specific cases have been studied and reported in which PT has reversed an individual’s curve. They can also educate you on what you can be doing at home to prevent further growth of a curve!
    • Specific PT’s may have taken continued education courses specific to treating scoliosis which you can find here:


SOSORT guideline committee, Weiss, H.-R., Negrini, S., Rigo, M., Kotwicki, T., Hawes, M. C., … Landauer, F. (2006). Indications for conservative management of scoliosis (guidelines). Scoliosis1, 5.

Janicki, J. A., & Alman, B. (2007). Scoliosis: Review of diagnosis and treatment. Paediatrics & Child Health12(9), 771–776.

Wnuk B, Durmala J, Dzierzega J, Piotrowski J, Walusiak M. The short-term effects of simultaneous treatment using two different methods of physiotherapy in the treatment of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: a pilot study. Scoliosis. 2009;4(Suppl 2):O30. doi:10.1186/1748-7161-4-S2-O30.