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
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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.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
July 26, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this