Many discussions about scoliosis - and the treatment of scoliosis in particular - centre on something called the Cobb angle. The Cobb angle is among the most important indicators of scoliosis severity, and Cobb angle reduction is the primary goal of the non-surgical scoliosis treatment courses we deliver here at Scoliosis SOS.

Simply put, the Cobb angle is just a way of measuring the curve of a scoliosis sufferer's spine. It is named after John Robert Cobb, an orthopaedic surgeon from the USA; Cobb was born in 1903, and he conducted extensive research into scoliosis when relatively little was known about the condition. He identified that only 1 in 10 scoliosis sufferers actually requires surgical treatment, and so he devised the Cobb angle as a straightforward means of determining whether or not a patient's spinal curvature is severe enough to necessitate surgery.

Cobb angle examples

The X-rays below show Cobb angle measurements for five different scoliosis sufferers (all of whom were treated here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic). The patients' ages range from 7 to 32 years old.

Cobb angle

More examples can be found here.

Using the Cobb angle to assess treatment needs

Scoliosis can only be diagnosed (and its severity assessed) by an experienced practitioner. However, here is a rough guide to what the Cobb angle means:
  • A Cobb angle of less than 10° is entirely normal - there is no such thing as a perfectly straight spine, and everyone will have some slight deviation in their spinal alignment.

  • 10° is generally accepted as the threshold for determining if somebody has scoliosis. Scoliosis will not be given as a diagnosis unless the patient's Cobb angle is 10° or more.

  • When the Cobb angle is between 20° and 40°, a back brace is usually recommended; back braces come in many different shapes and sizes, and some are worn only at night. However, some patients may be prescribed a brace at 15° or at 50° - it all depends on the hospital that's administering treatment.

  • How large does a patient's Cobb angle need to be before an orthopaedic surgeon will recommend surgery? The answer varies from country to country, and is often influenced by whether the patient is already wearing a brace and/or undergoing scoliosis-specific physiotherapy. In the UK, the threshold is often 40°; in continental Europe, it's more frequently 50°.

  • 12° to 120°: This is the range of Cobb angles we treat using our ScolioGold therapy programme (although the majority of our patients exhibit curves of between 20° and 65°).
Click here to see how our treatment courses can help to reduce the Cobb angle, or contact us now to book an initial consultation for yourself or a family member.