Degrees of scoliosis are measurements used to numerically record how severely an individual’s spine is curved. When diagnosing different severities of scoliosis, doctors measure the degrees of difference between a normal spine and the deviation of the patient’s spine from that norm. Low degrees of scoliosis indicate that there is not much curvature to the spine, and high degrees of scoliosis indicate that the spine is severely curved.
Scoliosis generally is not diagnosable until children reach a certain point in their development, because the spine continues to develop as the body grows. A slight curve early in development does not necessarily mean a child will be diagnosed with scoliosis later in life; it is possible that the slight curve will not worsen as the child develops. It is also possible, however, that the degrees of scoliosis will increase and the curve will worsen. Accordingly, most doctors regularly screen children for scoliosis as a part of routine physical exams.
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A slight curve is generally considered to be between 10 and 20 degrees of scoliosis. Typically, this amount of spinal curvature can go untreated, as long as there are no signs of progression. Doctors might choose to monitor the patient more closely to make sure that the degrees of scoliosis do not continue to increase and create a more drastic curvature of the spine.
If there is progression to greater degrees of scoliosis, additional measures most likely need to be taken. Degrees of scoliosis ranging between 20 and 50 are considered moderate scoliosis, and can usually be treated with a back brace. Back braces are best suited for treating moderate scoliosis because they can not reverse spinal curvature, they only prevent the condition from worsening too severely by holding the spine firmly in place. The type of brace and amount of time it should be warn are unique to each patient, and should be decided by a doctor.
Degrees of scoliosis over 50 typically indicate a severe curve in the spine. Severe cases of scoliosis can require surgical procedures to keep the patient comfortable and in good health. A dramatically curved spine has the potential to cause heart and lung problems as well as discomfort and back pain. The insertion of steel rods into the spine is a surgical method used for correcting severe cases. This procedure prevents the scoliosis from progressing further, and can also reduce spinal curvature to decrease health risks.