The term "scoliosis" refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis might be present at birth, or it could develop later in life because of neuromuscular or unknown problems. The condition is fairly common, particularly among girls, and it usually becomes apparent right before a person goes through puberty. Mild scoliosis typically refers to a minor curvature of the spine when few problematic symptoms are present. With a diagnosis of mild scoliosis, the curvature usually is less than 20 degrees, though the actual diagnosis varies from person to person.
For a person who has a mild case of scoliosis, symptoms often are minor or nonexistent. The spine might curve gradually, and the curve might go unnoticed. Some visual indications of scoliosis are uneven shoulders, hips or waist. The individual might experience some back pain or slight discomfort. If the scoliosis becomes more severe and goes untreated, pain eventually can become worse or lead to more serious problems.
Scoliosis often is discovered during a routine physical examination or screening. During a screening, the individual bends over, and the doctor examines the back from behind to look for abnormal spinal curve. If the doctor notices an abnormality, he or she might take an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the curvature.
For most people with mild scoliosis, immediate treatment is not necessary. In many cases, the curvature remains the same and does not worsen. For a child or adolescent who has scoliosis and still is growing, the doctor likely would suggest regular checkups every four to six months to monitor for any changes.
If a doctor decided that treatment was necessary, he or she could suggest several options. A doctor might recommend a brace to prevent further curving of the spine, particularly if the patient still is growing. If the case progresses to more severe scoliosis, a doctor could suggest surgery to reduce the severity and prevent further curvature. A doctor would base his or her treatment recommendations on the patient’s age and gender and on the severity, location and pattern of the spinal curve.
For patients with a mild case of scoliosis, the prognosis typically is good. In most cases, the scoliosis will not progress or require treatment. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the lower the risk of long-term problems.
Some practitioners believe that chiropractic treatment, physical therapy or exercise can help with mild scoliosis. Studies have indicated that these treatments are not effective in treating scoliosis. All individuals with mild scoliosis, however, should maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.