- Scoliosis is a condition that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine.
- There are ways to self-check for scoliosis, but they’re not always trustworthy and should never replace a physician’s assessment.
- There are a variety of treatment methods and specialists available for those with scoliosis ranging from non-invasive (such as exercises and bracing) to surgery.
“Scoliosis check” is a prevalent trend on TikTok—but it’s not exactly a screening tool for the condition.
In the videos, users demonstrate their posture when they try to hide their scoliosis—a curvature of the spine—versus when they stand in a relaxed position. The discrepancy can be jarring, and it’s a way to raise awareness about the challenges people with scoliosis face each day.
People with scoliosis have an S- or C-shaped curvature in their spine and may be unable to sit, walk or breathe normally.
If scoliosis is identified early in a person’s life, there are minimally-invasive methods that can correct the curvature of the spine while it’s still in growth. There are regular self-checks and at-home checks that can be beneficial in helping identify scoliosis along the way, though they don’t look anything like the viral video.
“Like much of the internet, there are a lot of good apps and some that are not as accurate. Checking and monitoring at home in combination with regular visits with your physician gives us the best opportunity to control the scoliosis,” said Amer Samdani, MD, chief of surgery at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia.
What Are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?
Bidisha Sarkar, MD, a pediatric surgeon specializing in pediatric intensive care, said that scoliosis can become visible at different ages, depending on the type and severity of the curve.
Early signs of scoliosis include one shoulder or hip higher than the other, one shoulder blade or rib cage more prominent than the other, uneven waistline, or head position being off-center over the body, according to Sarkar.
The visibility may also depend on the location or curve. For example, a curve in the upper back may be more noticeable than a curve in the lower back, Sarkar said.
Jeremy Denning, MD, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine, said some scoliosis symptoms are less visible, such as back pain, fatigue, and breathing difficulties. While back pain is one of the most common symptoms in adults, it might be less severe in younger people.
How Can You Check for Scoliosis?
School screenings for scoliosis have fallen out of favor as they’re “not ideal and only provide a single snapshot in a child’s growth in sixth or seventh grade,” Samdani said. But having a scoliosis check during an annual physical exam is important, and it should be performed at least once a year from ages 10–15, she added.
For children, more frequent check-ups are better, especially since a growth spurt can affect scoliosis progression, according to Denning.
However, if you want to do self-checks at home, you should perform the check with your shirt removed to allow for a better view of the spine’s curvature, he said.
One of the easiest ways to check at home is through the Adam’s forward bend test.1 Ask a family member to watch from behind as you bend forward at your waist and touch your toes. Try to get a snapshot and measure whether both sides of the ribs are even.
When Should You See a Specialist for Scoliosis?
A physical exam or an imaging test can help confirm a scoliosis diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the patient, scoliosis is initially managed by observation.
If the patient is a child who’s still growing and their spine curvature is between 25 and 40 degrees, a healthcare provider might recommend a fitted brace that can stop scoliosis progression. The brace needs to be worn for around 16 to 23 hours every day. A study found that patients who wear a brace for 18 hours on average had an 88% success rate in preventing curve progression.2
But in severe cases, when the spinal curve exceeds 40 degrees, surgery might be necessary.
What This Means for You
If you suspect that you have scoliosis, you can try the Adam’s forward bend test with the help of a family member or friend. If the back of your ribs looks uneven when you bend forward to touch your toes, consult your healthcare provider for a screening.
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Scoliosis.
- Dolan LA, Donzelli S, Zaina F, Weinstein SL, Negrini S. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis bracing success is influenced by time in brace: comparative effectiveness analysis of BrAIST and ISICO cohorts. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2020;45(17):1193-1199. doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000003506
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