Skip to content

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Spinal Curves in Scoliosis - Topic Overview

Doctors use X-ray images of a person's spine to measure spinal curvature. A curve or angle of the spine is measured in degrees and describes how severe the curve is. (The angle is determined by the intersection of lines projected from the top and bottom of the curve.) If the spine is straight, there is no angle; this would be a 0-degree curve. If the spine is curved, the angle can be measured. The larger the curve, the larger the angle or degree measurement. For example, a 10-degree curve is considered a mild curve, and a 50-degree curve is considered a severe curve.

Many people have some curve in their spine. In fact, spinal curves that are less than 10 degrees are considered a normal variation of the spine. Curves that are greater than 10 degrees may be monitored (to see whether the curve is getting worse) or may need treatment.

Recommended Related to Back Pain

TENS for Back Pain

TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a back pain treatment that uses low voltage electric current to relieve pain. TENS is typically done with a TENS unit, a small battery-operated device. The device can be hooked to a belt and is connected to two electrodes. The electrodes carry an electric current from the TENS machine to the skin.

Read the TENS for Back Pain article > >

In addition to the severity of the curve, curves are described by their direction and location.

  • Direction is based on which way the curve bends away from the center of the body. For example, if the inner side of the curve is to the right, it is called a right curve.
  • Location is determined by the spinal bone at the center of the curve. The spine is divided into three parts: neck region (cervical), chest area (thoracic), and lower back (lumbar). A curve may be labeled according to the number of spinal bones involved. For example, T5 to T12 means that the curve involves the 5th through the 12th chest (thoracic) spinal bones.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Spinal Curves in Scoliosis Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding lower back
    Or is it another form of back pain?
    Hand on back
    See the myths vs. the facts.
    Woman doing pilates
    Good and bad exercises.
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Use it to manage your pain.
    Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
    pain in brain and nerves
    Chronic Pain Healtcheck
    Health Check
    break at desk
    Woman holding lower back
    Weight Loss Surgery
    lumbar spine
    back pain