Scoliosis Terms

Adolescent scoliosis – A lateral spinal curvature that appears around puberty and before skeletal maturity, typically between the ages of ten and fourteen.

Adult Scoliosis – Scoliosis present after skeletal maturity.

Anterior – The front of the vertebral body; or may refer to the position of one structure in relation to another.

Anteroposterior view (AP view) – An x-ray view taken from the front of the body to the back (anterior to posterior)

Apex of curve – In scoliosis this refers to the vertebra that is located at the farthest point out laterally from the midline of the body (convex side).

Apical vertebra – The vertebra the greatest distance from the midline with the most rotation.

Apophysis – A growth plate not apparent on x-rays until the bones are maturing, when ossification begins. The iliac apophysis is often used to estimate a child’s skeletal maturity and is graded from 0 – 5 according to Risser.

Asymmetric spine – Not straight or normal resulting in a trunk which deviates to one side giving the appearance of a posture that is unequal in some respects.

Atlas – The first cervical vertebra (C1) between the skull and the axis (C2).

Balanced curves – A scoliosis is referred to as balanced when two curves are approximately the same angulation and results in a more balanced appearance.

Cervical spine –  Refers to the seven spinal segments (C1-C7) between the base of the skull (occiput) and the thoracic spine. The normal sagittal curve of the cervical spine is known as lordosis.

Cobb angle – The universal standard of measurement used to quantify a scoliosis. Cobb angle is measured on a ‘PA’ (posterior-anterior) or AP (anterior- posterior) x-ray by drawing a line at the top of the vertebra (above a curve’s apex) with the greatest lateral tilt and another line at the bottom of the vertebra (beneath the same curve’s apex) with the greatest lateral tilt. Extend the lines to the margin of the image, then draw third and fourth perpendicular lines. The Cobb angle is calculated where the lines intersect.

Coccyx – The bottom segment of the spine, below the sacrum, also known as the tailbone.

Compensatory curve – A secondary curvature located above or below the major curve. This curve develops in an attempt to maintain normal body alignment.

Concavity – Refers to the part of the spinal curvature where the spine curves inward creating a caved-in appearance.

Congenital scoliosis – Scoliosis occurring due to bony abnormalities of the spine at birth. These anomalies are classified as failure of vertebral formation and/or failure of segmentation.

Convexity -Refers to the part of the spinal curvature where the spine curves outward creating a prominence to one side.

Decompensation – Decompensation in scoliosis occurs when the thoracic cage is not centered over the pelvis creating an unbalanced spine.

Decompression – To relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.

Deflexion (side-shift) – Correction in the frontal plane.

Derotation – Correction in the transverse plane.

Dextroscoliosis – Scoliotic curvature that goes to the right.

Disc degeneration –  The loss of fluid content, structure and functional integrity of an intervertebral disc.

Distal – Situated away from, or farthest from, a point of reference. Opposite: proximal.

Dorsal – Posterior aspect.

Dorsal prominence – A prominence of the back.

Double curve – Two lateral curvatures in scoliosis.

Double major curve – A scoliosis in which there are two structural curves usually of equal or similar size.

Double thoracic curve – Two curves, both occurring in the thoracic spine.

Flatback Syndrome – Forward posture usually due to a flattened lumbar spine from postoperative or degenerative changes. When viewed from the side, the head may be several centimeters in front of hips.

Frontal plane – Of or at the front.

Hemivertebra – A congenital abnormality of a vertebral body caused by incomplete development of one side of a vertebra – usually a wedge shape. This may cause scoliosis or kyphosis.

Hyperkyphosis (see kyphosis) – Refers to an abnormal increase in the forward curvature of the thoracic spine as viewed from the sagittal plane.

Hyperlordosis (see lordosis) – An excessive lordosis, or increased curvature in the lumbar or cervical spine as viewed from the sagittal plane.

Hypokyphosis (see kyphosis) – A loss of kyphosis, or an abnormal decrease in the curvature of the thoracic spine as viewed from the sagittal plane.

Hypolordosis (see lordosis) – A loss of lordosis, or a decreased curvature in the lumbar or cervical spine as viewed from the sagittal plane.

Idiopathic scoliosis – A structural spinal curvature with no known cause. Confirmed by x-ray assessment. There are no underlying physical or radiographic pathologies. The most common type of scoliosis.

Iliac bone – The pelvic bone above the hip joint.

Infantile scoliosis – A spinal curvature that develops prior to three years of age.

Intervertebral disc – The structure that occupies the space between two freely moving vertebrae.

Juvenile scoliosis – A scoliosis developing between three and ten years of age.

Kyphoscoliosis – A structural scoliosis associated with increased kyphosis resulting in a round-back appearance.

Kyphosis/kyphotic – The normal forward curvature of the thoracic spine as viewed from the sagittal plane.

Lateral – Situated away from the midline of the body.

Levoscoliosis – Scoliotic curvature going to the left.

Lordoscoliosis – A lateral curvature of the spine associated with increased lordosis.

Lordosis/lordotic – The normal alignment in the sagittal plane in the lumbar and cervical spine.

Lumbar curve – A curvature of the spine where the apex is between the second and fourth lumbar vertebrae (lumbar scoliosis).

Lumbar spine – The five mobile, and largest, vertebral segments of the lower back (L1 to L5). These spinal segments bear most of the body’s weight.

Lumbosacral – Refers to the lumbar and sacral regions of the spine.

Lumbosacral curve – A lateral curvature of the spine with the apex at the fifth lumbar vertebra or below (lumbosacral scoliosis).

Major curve – The spinal curvature with the greatest Cobb angle.

Medial – Situated closer to the midline of the body.

Mild scoliosis – A spinal curvature with a 10º-24º degree Cobb angle measurement.

Mobilizations – Active movement by oneself. Passive-movement aided by another person.

Moderate scoliosis – A spinal curvature with a 25º – 49º degree Cobb angle measurement.

Neuromuscular scoliosis – Scoliosis caused by a neurologic disorder.

Nonstructural curve (functional) – A spinal curvature or scoliosis that is not fixed.

Planes of scoliosis – Sagittal: of or in a plane which divides the body into left and right  halves or the spine viewed from the side. Frontal: of or at the front. Transverse: a rotational plane, like twisting.

Posterior – Located in back, such as the back side of the body.

Primary curve – The first curve to appear when a scoliosis becomes evident.

Proximal – Closest to a point of reference. Opposite: distal.

Rib hump – The ribs protruding backward.

Risser Sign – The measurement used to evaluate skeletal maturity or completed growth, graded on a scale from 0 -5: 0 indicates much potential growth remains and 5 indicates skeletal maturity. The Risser sign is determined from an x-ray image of the pelvis and references the appearance of a crescent-shaped line of bone formation – visualize a mushroom cap – which appears across the top of each side of the pelvis on an AP or PA x-ray image.

Sacral spine (sacrum) – The curved triangular bone at the base of the spine.

Sacroiliac joint – The joint between the ilium and sacrum on each side of the pelvis which has a small amount of motion.

Sagittal plane – Of or in a plane which divides the body into left and right halves; or, the spine viewed from the side.

Schroth Method – A non-surgical, conservative approach to manage scoliosis. The techniques, developed in Germany, circa 1920, by Katharina Schroth consist of curve-pattern specific multi-step exercises (performed in sequences). Each prescribed scoliosis exercise is based on a patient’s particular scoliosis. Exercises incorporate Schroth ‘rotational breathing’ or corrective breathing with isometric contractions at the patient’s weak side and weak point according to Schroth. The Schroth Method offers many benefits for the scoliotic, among them: halt progression or reduce curvature, improve appearance, improve vital capacity and chest expansion and  strengthen and balance the scoliotic spine.

Scoliometer – A proprietary name for a non-invasive measuring device used to measure trunk rotation at the spine. Has the appearance of a small level.

Scoliosis – A three dimensional condition where the spine deviates laterally; defined by a Cobb angle measurement of 10º or more. A rotational component within the curve and a sagittal malalignment of the spine is often present. Scoliosis may cause unlevel hips, shoulders, a rib prominence, and other trunk asymmetries.

Secondary curve (compensatory) – A curve which develops in response to the major curve to try and help the body maintain alignment.

Self-elongation – A lengthening of the spine by oneself.

Severe scoliosis -A spinal curvature with a Cobb angle measurement at or exceeding 50º.

Skeletal maturity – Also known as spinal maturity in reference to scoliosis. When the Risser sign is graded as a 5 when measured on an AP or PA x-ray.

Spinous process – The portion of the vertebrae that protrudes posteriorly from the spinal column. The spinous processes create the “bumps” felt down the back of the spine.

Structural curve – A spinal segment with a fixed (nonflexible) lateral curvature.

Symmetric spine -The back appears to be equal in appearance on both sides of the spine. Showing symmetry.

Thoracic (Dorsal) spine – Twelve spinal segments (T1-T12) incorporating the 12 ribs of the thorax.

Thoracic curvature – A spinal curvature where the apex of a curvature lies between the second and eleventh thoracic vertebrae.

Thoracolumbar curve – A spinal curvature with an apex at the twelfth thoracic or first lumbar vertebra.

Thoracolumbosacral Orthosis (TLSO) – A type of back brace used to immobilize the thoracic, lumbar and sacral spine. This type of brace is used to attempt to prevent progression of scoliosis curve(s) while a child/adolescent is in a growth phase.

Transverse plane – A rotational plane, like twisting.

Ventral flatzone – Flattening in the front rib cage.

Ventral prominence – A rib protrusion in the front of the body.

Vertebra – one of the 33 bones of the spinal column

Vertebrae – More than one vertebra.

Vertebral column – Collectively, the flexible supporting column of vertebrae separated by discs.