5 Surprising Facts about Adolescent Scoliosis

Written and reviewed for scientific and factual accuracy by Dr. Austin Jelcick, PhD and Dr. Matthew Janzen, DC

Learning that you or your child has scoliosis can be a stressful experience. Finding quality information about scoliosis and scoliosis treatment that is backed by scientific research and medical studies can be even more stressful and difficult. However, being as informed and educated as possible is key to making good treatment decisions and ensuring the outcome of your scoliosis treatment is the best it can be; the more scoliosis facts and information you have at your disposal, the better!.

Here we describe five facts about adolescent idiopathic scoliosis that many people (including our patients) find surprising when they first hear them. We hope that this information provides you with additional help as you progress through your scoliosis treatment journey.

1. Scoliosis Curve Progression is Correlated with the Rate of Growth

The faster you grow, the faster the scoliosis curve size can worsen. Early diagnosis of scoliosis is essential in getting a handle on the curve before it progresses into surgical range. It’s important to note that while early diagnosis is critical, so is frequent monitoring from then on. More often than not, an adolescent will be diagnosed early on in their Risser stage and “wait and see” if it progresses by taking an X-ray once or twice a year. Doctors will seldom recommend monitoring any more frequently than twice a year due to the harmful radiation caused by X-ray exposure. Unfortunately, scoliosis can progress 20+ degrees in less than 6 months. This frequently results in a mild scoliosis curve worsening into a severe curve and then consequential surgery. These instances can be avoided by checking the curve more frequently without any radiation exposure at all by using a Standing MRI. MRI is not usually used by doctors to screen for scoliosis because an MRI is traditionally taken in the recumbent (laying down) position.

2. A Tight Spinal Cord Stops Surgeons from Straightening the Spine

It is well documented by surgeons abroad that the tight spinal cord is the main limiting factor preventing them from surgically realigning the spine as straight as possible. In fact, we have a spinal surgeon on record saying that “if it weren’t for the tight spinal cord, I could get every spine [that I operate on] completely straight”. It is because of this fact that gives us reason to believe that a tight spinal cord or spinal nerve tension might be the cause of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). A surgeons’ ability to straighten AIS is almost always limited by a short spinal cord. This is a main reason they have to monitor the spinal cord during surgery. If the spinal cord is overstretched it can cause paralysis. Furthermore, Dr. Milan Roth, MD hypothesized in 1968 that a tight spinal cord is the cause of most Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. There are exercises, albeit difficult to administer unaided by our proprietary devices, that can help elongate the spinal cord. Regardless of whether you believe this to be the cause of AIS or not, these exercises have been proven to create space for greater curve correction whether that is surgical or nonsurgical scoliosis treatment. This root cause treatment method is incorporated into every plan we offer at Scoliosis Care Centers and has played a crucial part in the dramatic results we’ve achieved.

3. Scoliosis Can Progress After Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is often misperceived as the quick fix for scoliosis. The reality is that it is merely a temporary solution at best. It is not uncommon for scoliosis to continue to progress even after the rigid bone graft fusion according to Weiss2008. The study went on to exclaim that “One would expect that if the patient lives long enough, rod breakage will be a virtual certainty”[i]. With a reported complication rate of up to 87%, it really should only be considered in the most severe of cases. Curvatures can continue to progress in young children despite fusion due to a ‘crankshaft phenomenon’ in which spinal growth causes rotation around the fusion[ii]. Given the complications that come with spinal surgery and the success seen with nonsurgical treatment alternatives, it is a wonder why the practice is even still exercised as frequently today.

4. Scoliosis Braces Can Provide Curve Correction

It is understood that a scoliosis brace can be used to prevent curve progression. In fact, it is the only nonsurgical method proven beyond a reasonable doubt to do so through extensive studies. However, it is not as well-known that a scoliosis brace can reverse spinal curvature. Significantly at that! The Silicon Valley Brace can provide dramatic curve correction of more than 60 percent! You can learn more about how research has proven bracing is effective as well as how long the results from bracing last under our fact check section.

5. Scoliosis is Genetic

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis is hereditary meaning it runs in the family. Thus if one of your family members has it, then it is more likely that you will too. Scoliosis is also more prevalent in females than it is in males. In fact, AIS is ten times more common in girls than boys.  Contrary to popular belief, scoliosis cannot be caused by backpacks, bad posture, or exercise. It is also important to mention that you should not avoid exercising if you have scoliosis. While sports that are extremely strenuous on the spine such as wrestling or football are not ideal for scoliosis, aerobic exercise is encouraged. Through our treatment, we’ve found that patients who live a healthy active lifestyle often have better results with their nonsurgical treatment than those who do not.

With all of that said, at Scoliosis Care Centers we make the make it our mission to ensure that you can get surgical-like results, but without the surgery. By combining a radical new approach to brace design, early screening and frequent monitoring with upright MRI, elongating the tight spinal cord and addressing the 3D rotation of the spine we boast a 98% success rate with Cobb angles less than 40 degrees. Don’t let scoliosis hinder your life, contact Scoliosis Care Centers today.


  1. Weiss, Hans-Rudolf; Goodall, Deborah (2008): Rate of complications in scoliosis surgery – a systematic review of the Pub Med literature. In Scoliosis 3, p. 5. DOI: 10.1186/1748-7161-3-9.
  2. Lee CS, Nachemson AL: The crankshaft phenomenon after posterior Harrington fusion in skeletally immature patients with thoracic or thoracolumbar IS followed to maturity.