When is Scoliosis Diagnosed

Scoliosis can occur at any stage of life, and the patient's symptoms at time of diagnosis can vary hugely from one case to the next: one person might be entirely unaware of their spinal curvature until a doctor spots it on an X-ray, while the next person might be suffering from extreme pain and greatly reduced mobility.

Today, we'd like to answer two different (but related) questions: what will a doctor look for when diagnosing whether a patient has scoliosis, and at what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

What do doctors look for when diagnosing scoliosis?

The first step to finding out whether or not you have scoliosis is visiting your GP, who will conduct an examination to see if you have an abnormally curved spine. Your GP will look for a number of different symptoms that may indicate the presence of scoliosis, including:

  • Uneven shoulder blades
  • Uneven hips
  • Leaning to one side
  • Back pain
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Breathing problems

If your GP suspects that you may be suffering from scoliosis, you will be referred to the hospital for an X-ray scan. The images obtained during this scan will then be analysed by the hospital doctor, and this is when you will receive your scoliosis diagnosis if your spine is abnormally curved.

(Remember, every spine is slightly curved - you will only be diagnosed with scoliosis if the angle of your spinal curve exceeds 10 degrees.)

After you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, the next step is to attend a specialist consultation to discuss the best treatment route for your spinal condition.

At what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

Scoliosis affects people of all ages, and some people go many years before receiving a diagnosis. That said, idiopathic scoliosis - the most common form of scoliosis - is usually diagnosed when the patient is between 10 and 15 years old. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, yet it accounts for around 80% of all cases.

In some cases, scoliosis can also be diagnosed earlier in the patient's life - for example, children who suffer from cerebral palsy may develop scoliosis as a result of this condition.

Scoliosis also affects adults and the elderly. Some cases of idiopathic scoliosis are not diagnosed until adulthood, but there is also degenerative scoliosis, which occurs later in life due to the ageing process.

If you are looking for an effective non-surgical scoliosis treatment option, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation.

Scoliosis test

Are you worried that your child may have a curved spine? Perhaps you suffer from scoliosis yourself, and you'd like to know whether or not the condition has been passed to your son or daughter?

Fortunately, there is an informal test for scoliosis that may help to put your mind at ease. The Adams forward bending test - described below - is a quick and easy way to check your little one for signs of scoliosis. It can be performed at home and does not require any special medical equipment.

Please note that this test should not be used in lieu of a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional. If you believe that you or your child are suffering from scoliosis, be sure to see your GP.

The Adams Forward Bending Test

Here's a step-by-step guide to checking your child for scoliosis:

  • Have your child take off their top and stand with their back to you.

  • While your child is standing up straight, look for visible signs of scoliosis - do their shoulders, ribs, neck, waist and hips look symmetrical? Or do they appear to be skewed towards one side?

  • Now ask your child to bend forward at the waist.

  • Once your child is in the forward bending position, look at their back. Does one side of their rib cage look higher than the other?

While no body is perfectly symmetrical, any obvious unevenness that you notice may potentially be a sign of scoliosis. Again, we strongly recommend visiting a doctor if you are concerned that a spinal curvature may be present.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we provide effective non-surgical treatment for scoliosis sufferers of all ages. Click here to see before and after photos of our youngest patients, or get in touch today to arrange a consultation with us.

Scoliosis diagnosis

If you think that you or your child might be suffering from scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine), it is best to go and see your GP for an informed scoliosis diagnosis. That being said, here are some signs to look out for that may indicate the presence of scoliosis:
  • A visibly curved spine
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent or higher than the other
  • Uneven hips
  • One leg being shorter than the other
  • Breathing issues
  • Back pain (although this alone is not a reliable indicator of scoliosis)
  • Naturally leaning to one side
  • Clothes hanging unnaturally
If you find yourself suffering from these symptoms, you should book an appointment with your GP. Here's how things will typically progress from there:

Step 1: GP Consultation

At your consultation with your GP, they will examine your back and refer you to a hospital doctor if they suspect you are suffering from scoliosis.

At your GP consultation, your medical history and family history will be discussed to determine if there are any external factors that could contribute to your condition. An Adam's Bend Forward Test may be conducted if the patient is a child - this requires the patient to bend at the waist with their feet held together, arms extended and palms touching. This test allows the GP to examine side-to-side asymmetry using a Scoliometer. 

Step 2: X-ray & Hospital Diagnosis

If you are referred to the hospital after a possible scoliosis diagnosis, an X-ray will be taken of your back to see if your spine is curved and, if so, to what degree. An X-ray is a type of scan that uses a small amount of radiation to give the hospital a better look at your spine. The X-ray scan allows the hospital to achieve a detailed image of your spine, including the thoracic spine (upper back) and lumbar spine (lower back). 

Step 3: Specialist Consultation

After receiving a scoliosis diagnosis in the hospital, you will be referred to a specialist to discuss which treatment method(s) would be the best next step for you. Your options will most likely be either bracing, physical therapy, observation or surgery.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we specialise in spinal conditions and we especially work to help those diagnosed with scoliosis. Through a non-surgical physical therapy programme known as ScolioGold, we help patients to improve their quality of life, alongside reducing the angle of their spinal curves. Our scoliosis treatment courses are usually four weeks long, and we can provide our patients with accommodation in our self-catering apartments in the City of London. 

Contact Scoliosis SOS today if you would like to arrange a consultation.
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