Last week, we introduced a new blog series called “What is Scoliosis,” and explained that scoliosis is defined as a lateral bending curvature of the spine of 10 degrees or more. Scoliosis can only be diagnosed by a doctor, after taking and assessing an X-ray of your spine.

Now that we’re clear on what exactly scoli is, here is a list of five things you need to know about yourself if you have scoli:

  1. Your Cobb Angle or degree of curvature
  2. Your degree of ribcage rotation
  3. Which exercises decrease your ribcage rotation and Cobb Angle
  4. Correct pad placement during exercise
  5. How often you need to exercise to make your mind and body happy

Each of these items is critical in understanding how your spiral spine works and how to best support and strengthen it.

Let’s tackle the first two!

 Knowing your Cobb Angle:

What is a Cobb Angle? Named after its inventor, Dr. John Cobb, the Cobb Angle is used as a standard measurement to determine and track the progression of scoliosis. Using your X-ray, which will photograph the curves in your spine, the Cobb Angle is calculated by drawing lines across the top and bottom vertebra of each curve; and then measuring the angle in which these lines intersect. That’s the Cobb Angle. Sound confusing? The good news is that your doctor can do all of this for you, so ask him or her for it. Make a note of it. You’ll want to keep track of it over time.

Knowing your degree of ribcage rotation:

Knowing your degree of ribcage rotation is a key component in successfully living with scoliosis. You can easily measure the degree of your ribcage rotation by using the Scoliometer by Spiral Spine app. While measuring your ribcage rotation is not the same thing as measuring your Cobb Angle, the two are definitely correlated as their degrees of measurement absolutely affect each other.

Here’s an example: I have a scoli client who has a 75 degree (Cobb Angle) major curve. She’s been to many Schroth trainings around the country, wears a Cheneau-Gensignen brace, and is diligent about taking care of her scoli. On one particular day, she came in complaining of back pain. As always, I measured her degree of ribcage rotation at the beginning of the lesson, using my Scoliometer app. I quickly noticed that her major curve was rotated to 19 degrees, a higher reading than ever before, which I confirmed by checking her individual tracking chart that I have on file. I needed to work on opening up her curves and reducing that rotation.

We spent the lesson focusing on exercises that stretched and strengthened her back and ribcage. She said she felt better by the end of the lesson, but I needed to measure her rotation again to be sure. Lo and behold, her ribcage rotation was down to 9 degrees, which was one of the lowest readings we had ever achieved. Success!

To sum it up, you need to know your Cobb Angle in order to get diagnosed with scoliosis and to check in on that diagnosis every year, or whatever time span your doctor deems necessary. You need to know your degree of ribcage rotation, which you can check as often as you want from the ease of your smart phone, to give you insight as to which activities help unwind your spiral spine making it more mobile and less wound up.

For more information, you can read accounts of my own diagnostic X-rays and Cobb Angle measurements in The Beautiful Scoliotic Back.

Next time, we’ll talk about the importance of exercise for those with scoliosis, proper pad placement during exercise and more.