Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that causes it to bend laterally in one or more sections. Other abnormal curvatures of the spine include lordosis and kyphosis, though scoliosis is the most common. Scoliosis may be diagnosed when two spinal abnormalities are found: rotation and lateral curvature.
Rotation. Lateral rotation of the spine is the best indicator of a true scoliosis deformity. The rotational characteristic of scoliosis causes a twisting malformation of the vertebral body. Any lateral twisting (rotation) of the vertebrae greater than 10 degrees would be medically abnormal.
Lateral curvature. A normal alignment of the spine would include a spine that appeared straight if you were to look at an X-Ray image of a person trying to stand straight. An abnormal lateral curvature would show the spine bowing or bending in a standing X-Ray, or may be visible upon a visual examination if the curvature is severe enough. In a visual examination, a doctor or specialist would stand standing a shirtless patient. The back specialist would ask the patient to first stand straight, with their hands at their sides, and then to bend and touch their toes. If scoliosis is present, the specialist may notice an S-shaped curve. A positive finding of scoliosis may not necessarily be considered abnormal as long as the curvature is not too severe.
True Scoliosis vs. Functional Scoliosis - Most cased of abnormal curvature of the back can be classified as one of two types of scoliosis: a true scoliosis or a functional scoliosis. A true scoliosis is usually inherited and develops early, beginning in fetal development or from early childhood. The problem may first develops when a segment of one or more of the vertebral bones doesn't develop properly. If the vertebrae is misshaped or underdeveloped, the vertebral bodies and facet joints that connect the spine will not be able to line up properly, and the "S-shape" curve may form. The prognosis for this condition becomes more positive when the angle of the curve isn't severe, and the condition is detected early.
A functional scoliosis of the spine is not caused by a developmental problem of the bones or connective tissues of the spine, but may be the result or an accident, injury, or trauma. The secondary curvature may occur directly as a result of an accident that causes a direct trauma to the spine. Or the secondary curvature may be caused indirectly, such as after a muscle tear in the middle back causes muscle imbalances in the back, causing the spine to be pulled in one direction. In some cases, an ankle or knee injury causes a change in the height of the hips, and the pelvis and spine to become rotated.
The three basis treatments for scoliosis include observation, bracing, and surgery. when I is was a student in the public school system in the 80s and 90s, we would get examined for scoliosis once or twice a year by the school nurses and physical education teachers. Also, children and adolescents will usually get tested by their pediatricians/doctors during their yearly checkups, growing up. A certain degree of lateral curvature is not considered abnormal, as long as the person is not in any pain or comfort. Any curvature greater than 20-30 degrees would be considered abnormal.