Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Scoliosis?

Classical Definition of Scoliosis:  Scoliosis is classically defined as a curve in the spine that exceeds 10 degrees.  Along with a curvature of the spine, there is usually an abnormal twist (rotation) present.  A normal human vertebral column (spine) should perfectly align with a plumb line when viewed from the front or back.  In scoliosis, there is a loss of perfect alignment, rather, the spinal column deviates from this straight up and down the plumb line.

Scoliosis is a three-dimensional deformity. It is not simply a curve, but a curve with a twist.  The three-dimensional nature of scoliosis is not readily obvious.  Imagine a hand on each end of the spine:  one at the top, the other at the bottom.  The hands twist the ends in opposite directions as the top and bottom ends collapse towards the center.  This twisting and collapsing of spinal height are what happens in scoliosis.  Most commonly, the spine is “coiling down” around the axis of the spinal cord.

What is scoliosis graphic image

The ribs and rib cage, being attached to the spine, will also be forced into an asymmetric position when scoliosis occurs.  The alignment of the pelvis relative to the spine may also become quite distorted with scoliosis.  As a result, scoliosis is considered a deformity of the spine, pelvis, and ribs, which is collectively referred to as the “trunk”.

In summary, scoliosis is a deformity of the spine and trunk characterized by:

  • Curvature of the spine that exceeds 10 degrees
  • Rotational twisting of the vertebra
  • 3-D deformity of the ribs, spinal column, and pelvis

What is Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis?

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is an abnormal curvature of the spine exceeding 10 degrees, diagnosed in adolescence and in which the cause is unknown.  The deformity occurs with rotational misalignment, often marked by a hump in the ribs or low back, as well as loss of the normal sagittal curves of the spine.

  • Adolescent: The diagnosis is made in adolescence.
  • Idiopathic: The reason for the scoliosis has not yet been determined. The term “Idiopathic” comes from Greek and literally translated would mean “one’s own private suffering”.  A case will be labeled “idiopathic” if there are no obvious neuromuscular diseases, genetic syndromes or congenital malformations.
  • Scoliosis: Three-dimensional deformity of the spine marked by both curvature beyond 10 degrees as well as a twist

For more information on AIS, please read our blog.

What Causes Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis?

All the structural changes that take place as a normal spine transitions into AIS can be explained by a tight spinal cord.  More accurately, tension anywhere along the spinal canal, also called the neural axis, can explain all the changes we see in the alignment of the spine.  The official name for this hypothesis first put forward by Dr. Roth is “Asynchronous Neuro-Osseous Development28,29.  The theory states that as the child’s bones grow rapidly, the nervous system or spinal cord is unable to keep up the pace.  This results in tension along the axis of the spinal canal, which is relieved by the scoliotic posture.

Click here for more information on the cause of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis.

normal vs short spinal cord nerve tension illustration

How much does Scoliosis Care Centers cost?

The cost of treatment at the Scoliosis Care CentersTM is entirely dependent on the case. What is included in the program, the duration, and the amount of follow up is all added up into a carefully determined cost break-down that is provided to each individual based on their case. Fill out the contact form with you or your child’s latest x-rays to have our doctors create a treatment plan with a cost estimate attached!

Do we treat adults with scoliosis?

Here at Scoliosis Care CentersTM, we provide nonsurgical treatment through the entire life-cycle of scoliosis. We have a dedicated team that focuses exclusively on enabling adults to live unhindered by their scoliosis. Read more on our Adult Scoliosis Page.

What are the hotel/accommodation options if I am attending the Care Centers?

Check out our accommodations page for more information on places to stay during our treatment program. Our patients get a 15% discount at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Pruneyard while they see us for treatment and patients who stay at the Courtyard Marriott in Campbell receive a 10% discount when they book in advance!

Is lunch provided during treatment?

Scoliosis Care CentersTM Enrollees will have one hour for lunch that they can either bring with them to the health center and store in our fridge or they can head out into Campbell for lunch on all days except for Pizza Day Thursday when the patients get out earlier and have some pizza!

How soon should we start noticing the permanent changes?

Around the 6 or 9 month mark, the doctors will be able to evaluate how effective the intensive treatment is and how permanent results are forming.

Why do you use hard braces? Don’t they make scoliosis worse?

Some braces are poorly designed, and improperly fit to the patient’s body. Other braces, like our Silicon Valley BraceTM here at Scoliosis Care CentersTM, have excellent design characteristics and can be highly corrective when fit by a skilled specialist. Read more about bracing effectiveness and how braces contribute to success by clicking here!

With cases that are in surgical range, what are the factors you consider when giving advise?

There are cases where the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks. When reviewing surgical range cases size of curve, rate of progression, health of patient, and a patient’s ability to succeed with conservative protocols are some factors we discuss with patients and parents as they decide the pros and cons of surgery and personally decide whether or not to take the risk. In cases where surgery is not an option due to another medical condition or syndrome where non-surgical treatment becomes your only choice, we have worked with patients to put a plan together to manage their care.

How many X-rays are taken and do you use lead protection to limit exposure?

We do need to take images in order to properly treat the scoliosis. We start with a baseline x-ray to determine what type of curve we are dealing with and get the latest measurement. If the patient brings in a current x-ray from another clinic, we can usually use that one. After that, there are approximately 3 other x-rays that might need to be taken during the 2-4 week long Scoliosis Care CentersTM treatment program. These are for the purpose of making sure the Home Program is pushing the spine toward neutral and not collapsing any of the curves. Every patient is different, there is really no “packaged” treatment plan, and each treatment must be tested.

We make every effort to limit the x-ray exposure to the patient with each shot. First, we take the x-ray at approximately 1/10th the milli-Amp dose of regular x-ray shots of the same body parts…using the digital software to enhance the picture of the spine. Although a little less quality of an x-ray, the films are still of diagnostic quality for Cobb angle checks and significantly reduce the exposure to the patient. Second, we use lead to shield the breast tissue, thyroid and gonads (ovaries or testes). Third, we face the patients back to the x-ray, creating a natural barrier to the more radio-sensitive tissues in females that are found in the front of the patient.

By using all of these methods to reduce exposure, all the x-rays that we take combined over a patients entire period of treatment with us will usually be much less than the one x-ray taken by the standard medical clinic. Reminder that all of the radiation doses combined at our office are still less than the patient taking a flight from California to New York.

What’s the success rate?

Check out our scoliosis success page to read about what kind of goals we are able to reach with our program and what kind of realistic goals we have for every case. To get an idea of what success you could have with your or your child’s case here at Scoliosis Care CentersTM fill out a contact form with your case information!

What is the largest Cobb angle that you have managed at the Scoliosis Care Centers?

We have helped give patients the management tools to help live a functional and pain-free life with Cobb angles over 130 degrees.