From Stretches to Surgery: How to Treat Scoliosis

Scoliosis affects up to nine million Americans, most of whom are diagnosed between ages 10 and 15, giving it a population prevalence of 2 to 3 percent. Like many other health conditions, the severity of scoliosis ranges from mild to severe.

Experts say that females are more likely to experience a curve that requires treatment. In any case, that likely leaves you wondering how to treat scoliosis.

Scoliosis treatment varies depending on the individual and the severity of the condition.

Your doctor will diagnose the condition and help you create an appropriate treatment plan. Keep in mind that this might change as your scoliosis changes, which often happens as the body continues to grow.

What Is Scoliosis?

Affecting the back, scoliosis causes a curve in the spine. As mentioned above, it’s most often diagnosed during adolescence, but can be present in infancy. It might also not appear until adulthood.

It’s characterized by symptoms that include uneven shoulders and hips, pain, and a visible curve in the backbone. Some people also experience an uneven waist or one shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other.

Additional symptoms include a jutting rib cage. If you or your child has any of these signs of scoliosis, it’s always a good idea to see the doctor for a diagnosis.

Congenital scoliosis happens in utero and results from malformation during fetal growth. Neuromuscular scoliosis is a condition that is associated with other health conditions, such as cerebral palsy, spinal trauma, or spina bifida.

If both causes are ruled out, you have idiopathic scoliosis, which is true for approximately 80 percent of scoliosis cases.

Once diagnosed, you can move ahead with treatment. Keep reading to find out what your options are.

How to Treat Scoliosis

As mentioned above, treatment varies from person to person. However, it starts with a visit to your doctor to go over your medical history. For children, the initial consultation involves evaluating recent growth patterns.

Your doctor will also check for numbness and weakness in the muscles. He or she may also look at your reflexes to see if they are reacting normally to stimuli.

An x-ray and/or MRI will also provide your doctor with more information about your backbone and the way it curves.

This information is how your doctor will decide how to treat your specific case of scoliosis.

Back Brace

While a back brace won’t fix scoliosis, it’s a good way to stop the curve from getting worse. This is often the first step in how to treat mild scoliosis. It’s most often used in adolescents.

A child will continue to wear the back brace until they are done growing. In most cases, they are worn during waking hours and are usually hidden under the clothing.

Most children can continue to take part in most activities, even while wearing the brace. Once growth is complete, further treatment may be needed depending on the degree of the spinal curve.


One of the most common adult scoliosis treatment options is painkillers. This is because back pain is one of the top complaints among adults with the condition.

Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, are often recommended. If they aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe something stronger to treat your back pain.


Many scoliosis treatment plans include exercise. This won’t fix the curve but can help ease the pain and discomfort that goes with it.

Getting your back moving is the goal and there are many options to choose from. If you enjoy the exercise you pick, you’re more likely to stick with it, so keep that in mind.

Another perk to physical activity is that it helps control your weight. Being overweight can exacerbate the pain that goes with scoliosis, so keeping the number on the scale within a healthy range can help.

Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who can work through exercises specific to scoliosis. These back exercises help control pain, though they won’t change the curve in your spine.

Always talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise program.

Spinal Injections

Besides scoliosis pain, many people also experience numbness and tingling in the backbone, which can extend through the lower body and into the feet.

Spinal injections, which usually contain steroids and a local anesthetic, help counteract these symptoms. The injections last for a few weeks to months, at which time they need to be repeated to maintain the effects.

Back Surgery

Severe scoliosis may require surgery. This is often the case for curves that worsen or are already severe. Surgery may also be necessary if you are in pain and other treatment methods haven’t made a difference.

Surgery is also a way to ease nerve irritation because of the spinal curve. There are a few types of scoliosis surgery and your doctor will help you determine which is best for your needs.

A discectomy is the best option for relieving pressure on the nerves. It involves removing parts of the spine between the vertebrae. A laminectomy is used to remove part of the vertebrae itself to counteract nerve pressure.

A spinal fusion surgery joins two or more of the vertebrae. The goal is to strengthen and straighten the spine. During the fusion process, parts of the backbone are held together with rods, hooks, screws, or wires.

Body tethering is a surgical procedure used most often in children who are still growing. It involves inserting screws along the spinal curve and threading a cord through the screws.

The cord is progressively tightened, which helps straighten the spine as a child grows.

Expanding rod surgery is an option for scoliosis that is growing quickly. Expandable rods are inserted along the spine, and the rods are lengthened every few months.

Sometimes this requires additional surgery, but advances in technology also make it possible by using a remote control in the doctor’s office.

Your First Step

If you’re wondering how to treat scoliosis, chances are that you have some symptoms and may have the condition. If that’s true, the best thing to do is to see your doctor.

With a variety of treatment options available to you, it’s never a bad idea to start treating it. For children, a brace may delay the need for treatment until growth is complete.

For adults, pain control is a major goal of treatment. No matter your age, scoliosis requires treatment.

If you’re ready to start your treatment, contact us and learn more about our pediatric and adult scoliosis treatment options. We’re here to help.