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The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at average or high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Guidelines

Professional organizations differ regarding whether children should receive screening for scoliosis. Many states, however, mandate screening in schools. Scoliosis screening is done using the methods listed above. Each state has different regulations on what age screening takes place. Adolescents are at highest risk to develop idiopathic scoliosis during their rapid growth phase. As a result, screening may be done anytime from middle school through high school.

If scoliosis is identified, then the family will receive educational materials about scoliosis, and the child will be referred to their primary care physican for further evaluation.

Screening Tests

A back exam should be part of a thorough well-child check-up.

Tests include:

Adam's forward bend test —With feet and knees together, you will be asked to bend forward with your arms dangling. The screening person will stand first behind you and then in front of you to check for any visible curvature, or any uneven appearance in your rib cage, hipbones, or shoulder blades.

Scoliometer —This device is used to measure the actual degree of curvature of your spine. You will be asked to stand with feet and knees together, and bend forward until the examiner can see curvature in your upper spine. The scoliometer is then placed on your back, and a measurement is taken. Another measurement is taken when you have leaned over further, and the area of curvature is visible in your lower spine.


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Richards S, Vitale M. Screening for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. an information statement. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2008;90(1):195-198.

4/1/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 23, 2015. Accessed December 23, 2015.

Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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