Moderate scoliosis is a gray area. It is typically used to describe cases of scoliosis that are at risk for progression and could potentially qualify as candidates for bracing. If you or your loved one are diagnosed with moderate scoliosis, the most important point to remember is this: no one knows for sure what could happen.
There are no reliable tests that can predict whether a case of moderate scoliosis with a Cobb angle above 25 degrees will continue to get worse or not. However, research suggests that if the Cobb angle is initially diagnosed at 25 degrees or higher, it will most likely progress.
No one can predict if bracing will definitely prevent a case of moderate scoliosis from progressing to surgery. Some scientists say that it can; however, sometimes a teenager with scoliosis can wear a brace exactly as prescribed, but her (or his) scoliosis may worsen anyway. We do know for certain that the chance of success with bracing increases if the brace is worn more than 13 hours every day.
With moderate scoliosis, the rotation of the spine tends to become evident in the appearance (although not always). The ribs and shoulder blade may start to become more noticeable on the back (especially when bending forward, like in Adam’s Forward Bending Test), and the shoulders may start to become unlevel. For most people with scoliosis, especially young women, the most disconcerting side effect of living with scoliosis is the change that it causes in the symmetry of the body. One of the goals of CLEAR Scoliosis Treatment is to achieve improvement in posture and appearance; we utilize tools such as scoliometers and specialized posture pictures that are designed to measure these improvements. Bracing may help to prevent the need for surgery in some cases, but if your goal is to improve your posture and symmetry, you may want to consider another approach.
It is the official position of the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute that young people (those that are skeletally immature, with growth potential remaining) with moderate scoliosis (Cobb angle 25 degrees or more) should NOT select traditional (non-CLEAR) chiropractic as their only treatment option. There is too great of a risk that this type of scoliosis could get worse, and the majority of chiropractors do not possess sufficient training or skills to effectively manage these cases. If you’re going to a chiropractor, check out our list of questions to ask your doctor to help you decide if they are qualified to handle cases of scoliosis.