Scoliosis: Diagnoses

Why Early Detection and Treatment is Important

Being diagnosed with scoliosis can be upsetting and confusing, and when you learn that smaller curves progress into bigger, more aggressive curves, you may feel like you don’t know where to start. The fact is that many doctors still recommend observation for patients with mild curves (under 20 degrees). Using the“watch and wait” method delays treatment though and reduces a patient’s opportunity to stop curve progression early. That’s why we recommend seeking treatment as early as possible, when natural chiropractic therapy can be most effective.

Learn more about risk of progression


Adam's Forward Bend Test

Scoliosis is usually first diagnosed in school (before puberty) or during regular checkups with a pediatrician. The first screening test given to determine whether or not a child may have scoliosis is called the Adam's Forward Bend test. The screening test involves the adolescent to remove their shirt so the back is exposed then to bend forward with their arms stretched downward toward the floor keeping their knees straight. An observing healthcare professional will look for any of the following signs:

  • The body is tilted to one side
  • One shoulder is higher
  • One shoulder blade sticks out
  • One side of the rib cage appears higher​
  • ​The waist seems uneven
  • ​One hip appears higher
  • One leg appears shorter

In this angle, if any of these symptoms are seen, it is possible that the individual has scoliosis. The next step to identify and diagnose the severity of the scoliosis with a certified chiropractor through an evaluation and X-ray.


Physician Exam & X-Ray

If you suspect scoliosis, it’s best to get an X-Ray to fully understand the curvature in the spine.  An X-ray will both confirm the scoliosis and check on the severity of the curvature. X-rays are also useful in determining the treatment because they help show the skeletal maturity of the patient.

Cobb Angle Measurement

When getting an X-Ray for scoliosis, it is important to gather information about the function of the entire spine to understand what is occurring in the neck and hips. To do this, seven small x-rays should be taken.

The “Cobb Angle” is the standard measurement to quantify and track the progression of scoliosis. This is considered the “gold standard” of scoliosis evaluation and has been endorsed by the Scoliosis Research Society.

How is a Cobb Angle done?

The doctor can plot this angle manually or digitally, but the lines to create the angle are done in the following steps:

  1. The most tilted vertebra at the top of the curve is located and a parallel line is drawn to the superior vertebral end plate

  2. The most tilted vertebra at the bottom of the curve is located and a parallel line is drawn to the inferior vertebral end plate

  3. The last step is to erect intersecting perpendicular lines from the two parallel lines

The angle formed between the two parallel lines is what’s know as the Cobb angle. Scoliosis is defined as a lateral spinal curvature with a Cobb angle of 10° or more. Based on the degree of the curve, a medical doctor will likely recommend a traditional treatment to treat the scoliosis, which includes observation, bracing or surgery for more severe curves. However, proven results have been seen with natural chiropractic techniques that we use.

If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, contact us so we can help you understand how you can get proven results which requires no surgery or braces.​