Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis during Adolescent Growth

Idiopathic scoliosis may develop at any time during childhood and adolescence but it is most common in periods of rapid growth spurts. The growth spurt in adolescence occurs between 11 and 14 years of age when scoliosis can progress rapidly before puberty. Once girls experience their first menstruation, the risk of curve progression tapers away with the completion of spinal maturity.

Orthopaedic specialists who treat adolescent idiopathic scoliosis use several indicators “that correlate with skeletal [spinal] maturity to assist in treatment decisions including chronologic age, skeletal age, menarchal stage,” and the Risser stage classification, which “perhaps is the most widely used indicator for skeletal maturity.” Patients with curvatures of 45° and above are considered at risk of spinal fusion surgery.

The International Scientific Society on Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) 2016 guidelines proposed a specific set of goals for an alternative non-invasive conservative treatment approach for idiopathic scoliosis during growth:

  • Absolute goal, the minimum expected goal of conservative treatment is to avoid surgery, improve aesthetics, and improve quality of life
  • Primary goal – best possible outcome for patients
  • Secondary goal – compromised goal when it is evident the primary goal cannot be reached

Primary and Secondary goals are desired patient treatment outcomes defined by the degree of curvature:

Degree of Curve Primary Goal Secondary Goal
Low Remain below 20° Remain below 45°
Moderate Remain below 30° Remain below 45°
Severe Remain below 45° Postpone Surgery

Conservative Treatment of idiopathic scoliosis includes:

  • Observation, clinical evaluation with or without x-rays – 3, 6, 12, and up to 36 months
  • Rigid Bracing, night-time, part-time, full-time; Specific Soft Bracing
  • Physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific exercises (PSSE), such as provided by the Schroth Method of outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation.

Observation is the most widely used treatment for scoliosis curves below 20°. Bracing is usually prescribed once a curve has progressed to 25° or greater, as are physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific exercises.

Recently, a preliminary study conducted in Hong Kong focused on evaluating the effectiveness of Schroth scoliosis-specific exercises performed by idiopathic scoliosis patients with high-risk curves, whilst receiving brace treatment.

The primary outcome measure for the study for all major curves was an improvement/decrease in the Cobb angle of 6° or more; unchanged/stable as ± 5°; and progressed/worsened by 6° or more.

Patients in the experimental group who were compliant with their exercise program had a higher rate of Cobb angle improvement. The study shows that the effectiveness of bracing can be improved with the addition of Schroth Method scoliosis-specific exercise program, providing there is a strong compliance to both.

For more information about adolescent idiopathic scoliosis on our website please click here and select the ‘Children & Adolescent’ button from Quicklinks.


  1. Avatar for Renee Renee on October 29, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Hi there,

    I would love to learn more about the Schroth Method for idiopathic scoliosis, Ive just realised that I have missed the work shop you had on today, very disappointed 🙁 will you be having another one of these in the future?

    My 13 year old daughter’s curve has progressed to 26 degrees and is being fitted with a brace in a fortnight. My eldest daughter has congenital scoliosis and has had corrective surgery, I need to avoid this with my 13 year old..I’m located in ocean grove and would love to schedule an appt. if possible? My details are below.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. Avatar for Malcolm Boulter Malcolm Boulter on November 1, 2017 at 2:35 pm


    The fact your daughter will shortly be fitted with a brace indicates she has not yet reached skeletal maturity. Bracing is a very positive and conservative treatment approach in preventing further progression.

    I believe the Schroth Method of scoliosis exercise therapy, together with appropriate bracing, could help prevent further progression in your daughter’s case.

    Our next Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis workshop is scheduled for Saturday, 9 February 2018.

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