5 Scoliosis Treatments You Should Know About

Making up your mind about scoliosis treatment for you or your child? While the degree of the curve (generally measured as a Cobb angle) has the most influence over the course of action for scoliosis, there are different treatment options, and you may have some choices about which option is best at this time.

Child physiotherapist examining patient spine
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

This article will explain the different treatments for scoliosis, as well as the criteria used to decide which treatment might be best.


Scoliosis Treatment - Observation

If your child has a small curve, i.e. between 10 and 24 degrees, they may need to be measured a few times per year. This is called "observation." The idea behind observation is that if the curve measurement increases to 25 degrees or higher, treatment may be initiated. 

Because adult bones don't grow, observation is generally necessary only when nerve symptoms accompany scoliosis.


Scoliosis Treatment - Bracing

When a child's bones are still growing, one of the goals of scoliosis treatment is to prevent the curve from increasing. If your child's curve is between 25 and 45 degrees, bracing may be required. 

Bracing is no picnic at the beach for a growing child—it may affect their self-esteem, as well as other things. Just the same, it may be necessary for avoiding pain and/or surgery later on. 

The AANS reports that when the brace is worn according to instructions given by a doctor, it may slow curve progression.

Talk to your child's doctor about convenient ways to incorporate bracing and be patient with your child as they voice their concerns and learn to adjust.


Scoliosis Surgery Treatment

Once a scoliosis curve measurement hits 50 degrees in a skeletally mature individual, surgeons generally recommend surgery. Sometimes signs of curve progression are present as well.

Curve magnitude has no role in surgical decision-making for adults. In adults, surgery is recommended for persistent pain, neurologic issues, and instability.

The goal of having scoliosis surgery is to prevent it from progressing any further. 

What can you expect from the surgery? Usually, it involves putting metal implants and rods into your spine. These implements reduce or eliminate the curves, and keep the spine like that until fusion occurs. Fusion is the knitting together of the spinal elements.

Sometimes, adults who had scoliosis surgery require revision surgery down the road.

Long spinal fusions, which were common years ago make for extra wear and tear and load on the vertebrae just above and below the fusion. This may lead to adjacent segment disease, where degenerative changes cause arthritis in discs, facet joints, and/or ligaments. Revision scoliosis surgery may involve another fusion and decompression surgery, which is done to relieve pressure on nerves. 


Scoliosis Treatment - Scroth Method

In the United States, most scoliosis treatment is centered around conventional medical treatment involving observation, bracing and/or surgery.

In Europe, and more recently in the U.S., several physical therapy approaches, most notably the Schroth method, have provided anecdotal evidence that they may be able to stop curve progression in adolescents. However, scientific studies have not demonstrated this to be true. 

No form of physical therapy has shown any efficacy in changing curve magnitude in adults with scoliosis.  


Chiropractic as a Scoliosis Treatment?

A lot of people turn to chiropractic for scoliosis curve management. Sadly, many believe this treatment can straighten out their spines.

As far as evidence-based medicine goes, there's no proof that chiropractic care is an effective scoliosis treatment. A 2013 review of studies published in the journal, Scoliosis, looked at a number of case series studies that reported decreased Cobb angles after chiropractic adjustments. The studies were weak: Most involved adults whose curves were not in danger of progressing, and teen/adolescents whose curves were at low risk of progressing.

The review authors also suggest that the reported reductions in Cobb angle following the chiropractic adjustments could have been temporary.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Scoliosis.

  2. Hagit B. The effectiveness of the Schroth method of physical therapy for treating an adult with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) in an outpatient clinic in the United States with third-party payer constraints: a case reportScoliosis. 2013;8(Suppl 2):O10. doi:10.1186/1748-7161-8-S2-O10

  3. McAviney J. Chiropractic treatment of scoliosis; a systematic review of the scientific literatureScoliosis. 2013;8(Suppl 1):O15. doi:10.1186/1748-7161-8-S1-O15

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.