Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that measures more than 10 degrees on an X-ray. Although it is not preventable, early detection and treatment can minimize the appearance of the deformity, which is usually the most concerning aspect of scoliosis for the patient. I take my patients’ concerns very seriously even though my priority is to keep a scoliosis curve from requiring surgery. Pediatricians are a critical part of early detection as they check for scoliosis every year. Most health care providers check for scoliosis by performing the Forward Bending Test, which is when a patient is asked to bend at the waist to assess for asymmetry of the back. A scoliometer, which is similar to a level, is often used to assess for rotation of the trunk. If there is asymmetry, you will have an X-ray to evaluate if the asymmetry is caused by scoliosis.
There are some common misconceptions about scoliosis:
- All shoulder asymmetry is caused by scoliosis
- Scoliosis is caused by bad posture
- Scoliosis is caused by certain exercises
- Chiropractic work can cure scoliosis
Scoliosis is treated with a brace when a curve is between 25 and 45 degrees in a growing child. I work closely with the orthotist that makes the brace to decide on brace type and achieve the best correction for a patient. Another growing trend in treatment of scoliosis is Schroth Method physical therapy. Although there have been no studies to prove that physical therapy can treat scoliosis effectively, I am supportive of patients who want to try it as long as they comply with my recommendations as well.
Dr. Roger Widmann has been a member of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery Service at Hospital for Special Surgery since 1995 and the Chief of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery Service since 2004. He is the Director of Pediatric Orthopaedic Trauma at New York Hospital, and is a member of the Scoliosis Service at Hospital for Special Surgery.