Kids’ Scoliosis: How to Check Your Child For Scoliosis

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Kids' Scoliosis How to Check Your Child For Scoliosis-Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Are you concerned that your child may develop scoliosis?


Does your child have one shoulder higher than the other?



Does your child’s trousers/skirt fit shorter on one side compared to the other?


These and other signs may be a signal that your child may have scoliosis. In this issue of Bodi Empowerment Magazine, I become your guide to help you screen your child for scoliosis and help you decide when you should reach out to a doctor of chiropractic for help.

What Really Is Scoliosis?


It’s the side to side curve of the spine when looking at your child from the back. A curve of little as 10 degrees is considered scoliosis. This 10 degrees can progress and form an “C’ curve or even an “S” curve of the spine.


Most times, scoliosis of the spine is of an unknown cause and is called idopathic scoliosis. That’s right idopathic=unknown.


Muscle imbalances are the main problem with idopathic scoliosis [1]. The muscles are stronger on side and weaker on the other creating an imbalance. Without an even pull of the muscles on either side, the spine starts to bend.


The further the spine bends the more imbalanced the muscles become creating a progressive circle of worsening scoliosis.


The muscle imbalances that cause scoliosis is tied to your family. The closer a family member that has scoliosis the greater chance of getting scoliosis.


So how do you find and prevent scoliosis? You should find your child’s scoliosis in the early stages so you have a better chance to fix it.


Like slowly hardening clay the spine eventually becomes set and with age the scoliosis cannot be fixed. It can be treated but the later that the scoliosis is discovered the greater the chance that exercises will not correct the problem completely.

Why Screen or Treat Scoliosis?

Scoliosis How to Check Your Child For Scoliosis-Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

X-ray showing a “C” curve scoliosis

A study that tracked people with scoliosis for 50 years found that the people with scoliosis had almost twice the likelihood of low back pain compared to people with no scoliosis.[2]


If the scoliosis gets to 40-50 degrees, surgery is the recommended treatment as it cannot be fixed with exercise or bracing at this point and what’s more, the scoliosis continues to get worse every year at 1 degree a year.


What should a concerned parent like you do?

Scoliosis Screen


If you have a family history of scoliosis or you have a concern about scoliosis you should have your child screened for scoliosis once a year by a chiropractor starting at the age of ten.


Why a chiropractor? They are the experts when it comes to the spine. (If you read Bodi Empowerment magazine on a regular basis you know that I often recommend chiropractors, physiotherapist, osteopaths all the time but in this case I recommend chiropractors. This is the first time this Toronto downtown chiropractor has recommended only chiropractors)


If you have close relatives that has scoliosis and you are not content to get your child checked once a year you can do a scoliosis screen yourself to supplement a professional screening.


Keep in mind a chiropractor that looks at posture everyday will see things that the average person would not see. Having said that using the following as a guide and practicing a lot, you can improve.


Have your child stand with their back facing toward you.


  1. Get your child ready by having them in their shorts and if they are a bit shy, a T-shirt with the spine exposed by cutting it open at the back. Generally speaking the more of the body you can see the more likely you are to find differences between the two sides. As just mentioned the main goal is to find differences or aymmetries between each side.
  2. Next ask your child to close their eyes the during this first part. Ask your child to turn th eir head to the right, then left. While still keeping the eyes closed ask them to bend their neck forward then backward. Ask them to stand naturally.  Now they can open their eyes. Doing this gets your child to stand in a more natural posture then by simply asking them to stand normally.
  3. Look at your child’s spine from back -Each side should be level with the other. 


Scoliosis-Location of Mastoid

The green dots are the mastoid bones just underneath the ear.

  • Head: To see if the head is level look at the ears. Just below the ears is a little bone called the mastoid. Each side should be level with the other.
  • Head: See if the head is turned see how much of the ear you can see on either side. The ears should be level.
  • Shoulder: Each side of the shoulder should be level. If in doubt use a large level.
  • Shoulder blade: The bottom of the shoulder blades should be even on both sides
  • Shoulder Blade: See if one shoulder blade sticks out more than the other
  • Hips:  The hip bone on either side should be level. You may have to push some “love handles” or fat around the hip bone (iliac crest) out of the way.

Now using what you know, look at the picture above with the lady with the green dots on her neck. You should see that she has tilted her neck to the right. If it helps you can mark your child on each side with an earaseable marker.  I’m not sure how much co-operation you will get from a tween though.

Scoliosis Forward Bending Test

Forward Bend Test: Have your child bend forward from the waist with the arms relaxed and dangling.

Forward Bend Test: Have your child bend forward from the waist with their arms dangling and relaxed. Look for the whole back to be even on both sides. If there is a prominence on one side then the test is positive.


4.   From the Front

  • Check to see if the belly button is in the center.
  • Check that the space between the elbows and waist are even on both sides


If you find any of these items to be uneven or asymmetrical get your child checked at your chiropractor. If the Forward Bend Test is positive go to your chiropractor. If the chiropractor also has concerns an X-ray is required.


THE X-RAY MUST BE DONE STANDING. If the x-rays are done lying down you are not getting the correct measurement of the scoliosis angle often called the Cobb angle. If you are lying down while being X-rayed it is easy for your spine to be bent to one side and look like you have scoliosis.


Your child’s X-ray should be a full spine X-ray. The X-ray can take it in 3 parts but the neck, midback and low back (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) X-rays must be done.


See Also:  MRI, CT Scan, X-rays: Which is Best For My Pain


Any bend in the spine needs to be checked yearly.

  • If the child is under 16 years and is still growing I recommend the first re-examination with X-rays be 6 months later.
  • If there is no progression on the 2nd examination than they should be checked one year later and every year after that.
  • Even with no progression scoliosis can get worse with a growth spurt.
  • After 18 years of age most people have stopped growing and so scoliosis usually stops progressing but this is not guaranteed.
  • There is a significant minority of people with scoliosis that slowly progresses while in their 20s. You can keep progressing even when the angle is not large, but if it has reached 40-50 degrees the scoliosis is likely to keep progressing.


Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.


  2. Health and Function of Patients With Untreated Idiopathic ScoliosisA 50-Year Natural History Study


Dr Ken Nakamura

2 Responses to Kids’ Scoliosis: How to Check Your Child For Scoliosis
  • Kay says:
    October 8, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Firstly, as a student of Pilates mat exercises for the past 18 months I have found your explanations easy to understand and the suggested exercise remedies extremely beneficial to assist with the night time nerve pain at the front of my right leg that I had developed. Thank you, it is much better . Secondly, are there a specific group of exercises out of all the different ones on your website that you would recommend as most beneficial for (my 15 year old niece with) scoliosis? Pelvic tilt, bridge, upper back stretch on roller, lower back stretch child pose, bird-dog and sphinx are what I was thinking…

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      October 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks for your question Kay. You should not do the sphinx as that will make things worse. Also the upper back on the foam roller is good if there is an increased curve in the upper back. These are also helpful as well although they should be supervised to make sure they are being done correctly at least the first time.

      Hope that helps your niece’s scoliosis.

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