How is Scoliosis Measured?

With scoliosis affecting over 4% of the world's population, it is easy to understand why many people would like to know the ins and outs of the process by which scoliosis is measured. Scoliosis is a medical condition that is characterised by a curvature of the spine and causes symptoms such as back pain, visible prominence and compromised breathing. To be diagnosed with scoliosis, the angle of your curvature must generally be at least 10 degrees. When measuring scoliosis, the curve is considered 'significant' if it is greater than 25-30 degrees and 'severe' if exceeding 45-50 degrees. 

Measuring and diagnosing scoliosis

In an initial consultation to measure and diagnose the severity of your scoliosis, the consultant will usually begin by looking for specific symptoms such as:
  • Uneven shoulders, hips, waist, legs or rib cage
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent than the other
  • Leaning to one side
After this stage, your consultant will also obtain your medical history in order to understand any symptoms you are currently experiencing which could influence your condition. They will also need details of any treatment you have previously received for your back to complete a full understanding of your spinal condition.

When the patient is a child, these details need to be discussed in order for the doctor to understand how much further the child will grow and if there is a history of the condition in the family. When diagnosing children, the Adam’s forward bend test is usually used: this requires your child to bend at the waist with their feet held together, arms extended and palms touching. The Adam’s forward bend test examines side-to-side asymmetry using a scoliometer. If any abnormalities (e.g. uneven shoulder blades) are apparent, the consultation will then move on to the second stage of measuring scoliosis.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, the second step when measuring scoliosis is a medical examination of the spine and back. Two measurements can be used, the first being an X-ray examination to assess of the rotation of the spine. The curvature of the spine is then measured using the Cobb method and the severity of the scoliosis is determined by assessing the angle of the curve. Identifying the patient's Cobb angle is essential to measuring scoliosis as it helps to identify magnitude of the spinal deformity. 

Cobb angle

The Cobb angle is calculated by measuring the angle between the most tilted vertebrae above and below the curvature. Perpendicular lines are drawn from the top of the highest vertebrae in the curve and the bottom of the lowest vertebrae in the curve. When these lines intersect, it gives us the Cobb angle, and this measurement tells us how severe the condition is.

The second measurement utilised at our clinic is a radiation-free back scan, which uses light and photography to digitally analyse your back shape and profile. This scan will then be discussed with you in full, and you will be provided with your own copy for your records.

At the end of your consultation, you will be provided with details on the degree of your spinal curvature and advice on the best next steps to take with your condition.

To find out more information about our non-surgical treatment courses, please click here.  We have treated numerous patients suffering from scoliosis over the years, and the results speak for themselves. If you’d be interested in learning more about what we do, please get in touch with us today.