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Idiopathic Scoliosis

Escoliosi idiopàtica

The word scoliosis comes from Greek and means “curvature”. It is not considered a disease, but rather, a three-dimensional deformity. This is why the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) defines it as a lateral curvature of the spine with a rotation of the vertebrae inside the curve of more than a 10º Cobb angle.

It is important to distinguish structural scoliosis from non-structural scoliosis, also known as pseudoscoliosis. In structural scoliosis, the spine shows a lateral deviation (the severity of which can be measured using the Cobb angle, which quantifies spinal deformities) and a rotational deformation that is measurable via the Adams Forward Bend Test and a scoliometer. In non-structural scoliosis, the lateral deviation does not involve vertebral rotation and this condition can be corrected via postural training.


Scoliosis, in turn, is divided into the idiopathic and secondary types. Idiopathic scoliosis is that for which no cause can be established. 

Idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents is a three-dimensional structural abnormality, with lateral deviation and a rotation in the curvature of the spine that affects the health of young people around the age of puberty. This diagnosis is established only when other potential causes of scoliosis, such as vertebral deformities, neuromuscular abnormalities, or other syndromic disorders, have been ruled out. If any of these are the cause, it is called secondary scoliosis. 

Idiopathic scoliosis is classified according to the age at which it appears: infantile (0-3 years old), juvenile (3-10 years old), and adolescent (over 10 years old).



Idiopathic scoliosis affects between 2% and 3% of young people between 10 and 16 years old (the age range with the most risk). Recently, in China, the percentage of children in this age range who suffer from this deformity has been shown to be up to 5.14%.

In scoliosis, as the severity of the curve increases, the number of sufferers decreases. Scoliosis with curvatures above 20 degrees affects between 0.3% and 0.5% of these individuals, and it is estimated that the proportion of patients who require surgical treatment does not exceed 0.1%.



Detecting scoliosis is generally done using the Adams Forward Bend Test, which, as its name implies, consists of the patient bending their torso forward, allowing a “hump” to appear, which is subsequently measured with a scoliometer. However, a definitive diagnosis cannot be made without measuring the angle on an X-ray in which the patient is standing up. 

The most common forms of secondary scoliosis are those associated with neuromuscular diseases. Sometimes, the first sign of some of these diseases is scoliosis, and until it manifests, the scoliosis can seem idiopathic, but in reality, it is secondary.


Who is affected by the condition?

Children and adults of all ages. 



The paediatrician will be able to detect this condition, and then the rehabilitation specialist will be in charge of making the diagnosis and evaluating treatment options, in collaboration with the orthopaedic team and the physiotherapist, who will be the ones to follow up and monitor the progression of this deformity.


Standard treatment

In adolescents, the progression of the curve is prevented using conservative treatment  based on observation and the use of a corrective brace if the curvature progresses and surpasses 25 degrees.  

To treat small curves that are at low risk of progression, physiotherapy is recommended.

Surgical treatment is only used in specific cases, such as adolescents who have a primary structural curve greater than 45 degrees and adults who do not respond to conservative treatment.


Standard tests: 

To diagnose scoliosis, imaging tests such as conventional X-rays are carried out. Using these, the degree of the curvature can be precisely quantified. If another clinical symptom is associated with the deformity, an MRI will be requested.


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