Mythbusters: Why You Probably Don’t Have Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a word we hear a lot at Florida Spine Associates. While our team is expertly equipped to treat this common spinal condition, the term tends to be misused to describe other ailments. In other words, sometimes our patients think we’re treating their scoliosis, but their symptoms aren’t scoliosis by definition.

Let’s tackle the most prevalent myths about scoliosis.  

Myth: Any curve in your spine is scoliosis.

Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, meaning that your spine curves abnormally to the left or right. Scoliosis can happen in the lumbar (lower) or thoracic (middle) part of your spine. A small curve may fall within a normal range of variation. By definition, the curvature should be 20 degrees or more before we consider it scoliosis. 

Healthy spines have a natural S-shaped curve when viewed from the side. This helps the body absorb everyday physical stressors. That normal curve is not scoliosis. 

Myth: Scoliosis for kids is the same as scoliosis for adults.

Screening early for adolescent scoliosis is the best way to get the best results in treatment. Often, adolescent scoliosis isn’t about uneven wear on the spine. Usually, it has no direct cause and may actually be hereditary. 

Children or teenagers develop scoliosis due to a deformity in the coronal or frontal plane. This may get worse as they grow. Or it might need no correction at all. A diagnosis from a skilled doctor may help make that determination. 

However, adolescent scoliosis is very different from adult degenerative scoliosis. The treatments are different, too. Scoliosis in adults occurs when the spine starts wearing out asymmetrically. A disc might have more pressure on the left side, so it wears out more quickly than on the right side. This causes the spine to tilt to the left side. If it gets bad enough, it can cause adult scoliosis. 

Myth: Scoliosis can be diagnosed just by looking at your back.

Even our expert doctors wouldn’t trust what they see with their eyes! 

The best way to diagnose scoliosis is with a full length X-ray, which is available at each FSA location. An x-ray allows our physicians to see the spine from all angles and compare the different curvatures against one another. 

For example, we assess how much curvature a patient has in the lower spine compared to measurements in the pelvis. We’ll see if that curvature matches with the opposite curve in the thoracic spine and the curve of the neck. 

Once we have all these measurements, we can determine if the patient has scoliosis and explore treatment options. 

Myth: A diagnosis of scoliosis means you need surgery.

Only a small number of patients who are properly diagnosed with scoliosis will need a brace to correct the curve. Even fewer patients will need surgery. 

At Florida Spine Associates, our physicians weigh the benefits against the risks. They assess how the symptoms affect a patient’s quality of life and analyze how well certain treatments could correct the problem and lessen pain. Treatments we focus on include kyphoplasty, the treatment of vertebral body compression fractures, minimally invasive spine surgery, in-office interventional pain management and more. 

To learn more about offered treatment plans, book an appointment with the experts at Florida Spine Associates today.