Expert Blog


Scoliosis refers to the lateral curve of a spine – instead of being straight; the spine has an 'S' or 'C' shape. It is also associated with rotation, which may result in the ribs being more prominent on one side, causing one shoulder to sit higher than the other, or a hunched appearance. There are several different causes of scoliosis. It can develop in utero when only one side of the vertebrae develops, or two are fused. Osteoporosis, tumors, infection, and other conditions can weaken bony structure, resulting in one-sided vertebral collapse: this looks scoliotic but has a pathological cause. Scoliosis may be associated with arthritic change, shifting spine position (spondylolisthesis) or swelling, which can threaten the spinal cord. With bladder and bowel function at risk, surgery for spinal decompression may become urgent.

Young children with a scoliosis will often be fitted with braces in the hope that their condition does not worsen as they grow. However, despite hands-on therapies, pain medication, and exercise, severe scoliosis may eventually require surgical correction.

Surgical techniques for scoliosis have become less invasive in the last 50 years. Roughly 27,000 of these surgeries are performed each year, but no two of these will be exactly alike. Depending on the shape and location of the curves, the surgeon may go in from the front of the spine or push the back muscles aside, in order to work, on the posterior parts of the spine. Dennis Crandall, MD, the founder and Medical Director of Sonoran Spine, pioneered a surgical hardware system and technique for treating scoliosis, known as the Crandall Method, and referenced by orthopaedic surgery's highly respected manual: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics.

Just because a spine isn't straight, doesn't mean it isn't working. Sometimes mild scoliosis develops over time that does not require surgery. As long as function is restored, pain may resolve. Equally, a spine that is not completely straight after surgery will still function markedly better, with less pain.