Detecting scoliosis can be tricky.

Symptoms are often subtle during the early stages, which can make them easy to dismiss.

In children, developing scoliosis often goes unnoticed until they reach adolescence and enter a rapid growth phase. In adults, it can be even harder to spot. One study found that the condition remained undetected in 67% of adult back-pain patients with scoliosis — particularly when the spinal curvature was mild. Even patients with moderate to severe curvature went undiagnosed more than 10% of the time.

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Scoliosis Back PainAfter years of scoliosis treatment, 16-year-old Rachel Rabkin Peachman’s curves had stabilized and her spine had fully grown. At 45 degrees, she had narrowly escaped surgery. Her doctor told her she was done.

But she wasn’t.

“I’ve discovered in the years since that scoliosis is not something you endure and outgrow, like pimples and puberty. Now, at the ripe age of 38, I find myself with a 55-degree upper curve, a 33-degree lower curve, consistent pain — and no standard treatment to follow.”

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According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), scoliosis affects between 2% and 3% of the American population, or about six to nine million people. It is characterized by an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine and there are many different forms. The various types of scoliosis are classified by cause and age of onset; the speed and mechanism of progression also plays a role in determining the specific type of scoliosis.

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Understanding scoliosis begins with identifying its location and the type of spinal curvature.

Knowing this information can help predict what types of scoliosis symptoms may be experienced and how the condition can best be treated.

There are several detailed systems for classifying specific types of scoliosis curves, but some of the most common terms identify curves based on their location within the spine and the direction they bend.

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Doctors prescribe scoliosis braces for one in five adolescents who have the condition. As a result, an estimated 30,000 children are wedged into braces each year. But to what end?

Despite the fact that scoliosis bracing has existed for centuries and has been considered the standard surgery prevention tactic since the modern brace was invented in the 1940s, there is little evidence to support its effectiveness.

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One of the most common questions I get from parents and patients is how does the ScoliSMART Activity Suit compare to the Spine Corporation (SpineCor) Brace?

We shouldn’t simply compare, but rather contrast the differences!

The ScoliSMART Activity Suit is to the SpineCor Brace as apples are to oranges — they are different products, designed to do different things and yield different results. Perhaps the only thing they have in common is that both are used to treat patients with scoliosis — kids and adults.

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Scoliosis is like any other illness: the sooner you identify it, the better your chances of treating it. Since the spine becomes more rigid as a person gets older, the sooner someone is diagnosed with scoliosis, the sooner they can begin a proper course of treatment that can control, or even reverse, the effects of scoliosis. Diagnosing scoliosis is easy, but identifying it pre-diagnosis can be surprisingly difficult. In fact, it will often go unnoticed, for many years, in young patients. Many cases aren’t identified until the patient has gone through puberty, and the curve becomes more noticeable.

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14522806_1155232874511794_87023077465809167_nWhen you or your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, the options can seem painfully limited. Patients who are unwilling to accept the typical solutions—bracing, surgery or “wait and see”—often struggle to find an alternative treatment that stops scoliosis progression without permanently damaging the spine.

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woman using cell phone to callBeing diagnosed – or having a child who is diagnosed – with idiopathic scoliosis can be a disconcerting, even scary, experience. After the diagnosis, you’ll be faced with lots of questions, and you’ll be uncertain about the future. What steps should you take? What steps should you avoid?

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13627010_1083062561728826_6466898099869986801_nFinding the right scoliosis treatment can be a long and frustrating journey. First you get the diagnosis and all the overwhelming emotions that come with it. Then you’re presented with the potential treatment options—usually bracing, surgery or “wait and see.” Finally there’s the endless digging, online or at the library, to find a better alternative.

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