Summer is the perfect time to screen for scoliosis

School routines are winding down and the leisurely days of summer are just ahead of us. While your kids are home for the summer, it is time to think about getting their spines checked for scoliosis. The temperatures are heating up and children and teens are wearing fewer layers now that winter clothes can be packed away. While not all symptoms of scoliosis can be detected visually, some signs of scoliosis can be recognized by the eye, making summertime the perfect benchmark for an exam.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis, a musculoskeletal disorder that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine or backbone (sometimes resembling an “S” or “C”), is the most common deformity of the spine, affecting an estimated 6-9 million people in the United States. Certain conditions can cause scoliosis, including muscle diseases, birth defects or injuries, but the most common scoliosis is idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown. Scoliosis is most commonly diagnosed between 10-15 years of age during periods of rapid growth. Although many adolescents may have the condition, not all will need care.

“Because most causes are unknown, early detection through routine screenings is key to providing the best possible outcome,” said Amer Samdani, MD, chief of surgery for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia.

Signs of scoliosis

Scoliosis can be hereditary; it is recommended that a child who has a parent or sibling diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis receive regular checkups for early detection. Pediatric medical experts recommend girls be screened at least twice at ages 10 and 12 and boys at either age 13 or 14.

Children and teens with scoliosis rarely exhibit symptoms and sometimes the condition is not obvious until the curvature of the spine becomes severe. Sometimes you may notice that your child’s clothes are not fitting correctly or that hems are not hanging evenly. In some cases, your child’s spine may appear crooked or their ribs may protrude.

Some indicators to watch for in a child who has scoliosis are:

  • One shoulder may appear higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade may stick out farther than the other
  • One hip may appear higher or stick out more than the other
  • Their head is not properly centered over their body
  • When bending from the waist, the ribs on one side are higher
  • Their waistline may appear flat on one side

App helps parents detect signs of scoliosis

You might remember being checked by a school nurse for scoliosis, but some states are no longer requiring schools to screen for scoliosis. Now you can check your child’s spine for scoliosis with the help of your smartphone through the SpineScreen app – available for free on the App Store and Google Play. The SpineScreen app allows you to perform a preliminary spine check on your child in the comfort and privacy of your own home. It detects abnormal curves when the phone is moved along a child’s back, giving parents a quick way to routinely monitor their child’s spine. As this is strictly an initial check, it should be followed up by a doctor’s examination to determine if your child has scoliosis.

Confirming scoliosis

When confirming a diagnosis of scoliosis, a doctor will confer with you and your child while also reviewing your child’s medical history; conducting a full examination of your child’s back, chest, feet, legs, pelvis and skin; taking a series of X-rays; measuring curves; locating the apex of the curve and identifying the pattern of the curve.

Treatment of scoliosis

According to Samdani, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for scoliosis.

“Some cases will just need to be watched; others will need physical therapy, bracing or surgical procedures to stop the curve from progressing,” he said. “At Shriners Hospitals, we offer the whole spectrum of treatments under one roof, all working together to get the best possible outcome for each child. We also treat children regardless of the families’ ability to pay, so that often provides a huge relief to parents.”

For more information on scoliosis screenings, care and treatment, visit or find us on social media @ShrinersPhilly.

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