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Scoliosis screening and early detection

Scoliosis affects roughly 4.5 percent of the population, however, many cases go undiagnosed and the real number is thought to be closer to 15-20% of the population. The best way to treat scoliosis is early detection and intervention. Here are some ways to help in identifying a curvature of the spine:

  1.  Adam’s forward bending test where the child bends forward at the waist in an attempt to touch their toes. The examiner will then look for asymmetry of the spine and hips. This test will only be positive if a curvature is already present.
  2. Difficulty with proprioception and balance. Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of body segments in relation to other body segments. For example, being able to close your eyes and touch your nose with your pinkie finger. Some scoliosis patients are unable to complete this because the communication between the brain and the body is compromised. Tests that can be done to check your balance and proprioception are:
  1. Marching test: patients will close their eyes and march in place with their arms straight out in front of them for 30-60 seconds. Individuals with impaired proprioception will unconsciously rotate from their starting position.
  2. One-legged stork test: patients stand on one leg with their arms folded in front of their chest for 30 seconds. First with eyes open and second with eyes closed. Scoliosis patients tend to be able to complete the test with their eyes open but when performing the test with their eyes closed they are unable to complete the test.
  3. Standing on an unstable surface such as a foam pad first with eyes open then repeated with eyes closed. If unable to do with eyes closed it is indicative of a proprioceptive imbalance.

If any of these tests are positive, it is important to have an x-ray taken immediately as it is the only definitive way to diagnose a scoliosis.