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Scoliosis Screening

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Topic Overview

A 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 scoliometer.

Some states require screening for scoliosis by law. But health experts don't agree with whether or not to screen for scoliosis.footnote 1, footnote 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 should be screened for scoliosis regularly throughout their preteen and teen years. If you are concerned about screening for scoliosis, talk to your child's doctor.

For more information, see the topic Scoliosis.



  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2004). Screening for Idiopathic Scoliosis in Adolescents: Recommendation Statement. Available online:
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (1984, updated 2015). AAOS/SRS/POSNA/AAP position statement: Screening for early detection of idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. Accessed January 29, 2016.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

Current as ofMarch 21, 2017

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