doctor may test a young person for
scoliosis during a routine physical exam. In schools,
screening may be provided annually for students between the ages of 10 and 14
(grades 5 through 9). The exam takes about 30 seconds and may be done by a
school nurse or physical education teacher.
The examiner first views the child from behind,
looking for uneven shoulders, hips, or waistline or for shoulder blades that
stick out or are uneven.
The child then bends forward from the
waist, with the arms hanging down loosely and the palms touching
(forward-bending test). The examiner looks for any unevenness, such as one side
of the rib cage that is higher than the other. The examiner may also view the
child from the side to detect a hump on the upper back (kyphosis).
Also, the examiner may measure the angle of
trunk rotation (ATR) with a device called a
Some states require screening for scoliosis by law.
But health experts don't agree with whether or not to screen for scoliosis.1, 2 Screening can lead to early treatment and may prevent curves from getting worse, but screening can also lead to more testing or treatment for children who would not have needed it.
Some experts believe that children (especially daughters) of women who have scoliosis should be screened for scoliosis regularly throughout their late
childhood and teen years.3
If you are concerned about screening for scoliosis, talk to your child's doctor.
Start with your primary-care physician; back pain is so common that most
family docs have seen lots of it. Your PCP is also a good person to return to
if, later, you get conflicting treatment advice from specialists. He or she can
help you evaluate what would be your best next step.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2004). Screening for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents: Recommendation statement. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsaisc.htm.
Richards BS, Vitale M (2007). SRS/AAOS Position statement: Screening for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. An information statement. Available online: http://www.aaos.org/about/papers/position/1122.asp.
Hu SS, et al. (2006). Scoliosis section of Disorders,
diseases and injuries of the spine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., chap. 5, pp. 255-269.
New York: Lange Medical/McGraw-Hill.
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
July 21, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
July 21, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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