In order for your doctor to make a scoliosis diagnosis, he or she will need to measure the angle of the spinal curve. Your doctor will also want to know your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order certain tests, including an x-ray.
Scoliosis Diagnosis: An Overview
In order to make a scoliosis diagnosis, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order a number of tests.
Scoliosis Diagnosis: Medical History
As part of taking your medical history, your doctor will need to talk to you and your parents and review your health records. Your doctor will be looking for medical problems that may be causing the spine to curve, such as birth defects, trauma, or other disorders that can be associated with scoliosis.
Scoliosis Diagnosis: Physical Examination
As part of the physical exam used to make a scoliosis diagnosis, your doctor will examine the back, chest, pelvis, legs, feet, and skin. Your doctor will check to see if your shoulders are level, your head is centered, and if opposite sides of your body look level. Your doctor will have you bend forward so that he or she can examine your back muscles to see if one side of the rib cage is higher than the other.
If there is a significant asymmetry (difference between opposite sides of the body), your doctor will refer you to an orthopedic spine specialist (a doctor who has experience treating people with scoliosis).
Certain changes in the skin, such as "café au lait" (coffee-with-milk-colored) spots, can suggest that the scoliosis is caused by a birth defect.
Patients will need to have an x-ray if they have one of the following problems:
- Significant spinal curves.
- Unusual back pain.
- Signs of central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) involvement, such as bowel and bladder control problems.
The x-ray should be done with the patient standing with his or her back to the x-ray machine, which will show the entire spine.