How to examine your child for Scoliosis

Are you wondering how to examine your child for Scoliosis? If you have noticed that your child’s spine isn’t as “straight” as it should be, or there is a hunch, you can perform screening techniques at home. Here we give you a quick Scoliosis self-assessment guide to help establish if your child requires seeing a specialist.

1.What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis has several causes and is defined as a lateral curvature of the spine in the frontal plane of the body, which means that the spine curves from side-to-side. Normally, the spine is straight, as seen from the front or behind. With scoliosis, the spine curves to the side in the shape of the letter “S” or “C”.  The most common form of Scoliosis is termed ‘IDIOPATHIC’-which literally means ‘of unknown cause or origin’, and may occur in early childhood or adolescence.

Scoliosis may occur anywhere in the spine but is usually found in the Lumbar (lower back), and Thoracic (mid-back) regions.

Here are some examples of what to look out for if you suspect your child has Scoliosis

  • The body leans more to one side than the other. 
  • A rib “hump” and/or a protruding shoulder blade on the back.
  • The opposite sides of the body do not appear level and aligned.
  • A tilted head that is not in line with the hips. 
  • One hip or shoulder that is higher than the other, causing an uneven waist.
  • In developing girls, breasts appear to be of unequal size or at different heights.
  • Unequal distance between arms and body. 
  • Clothes that do not “hang right,” appearing to have uneven hemlines. 
  • Standing with one knee slightly bent a lot of the time.
  • Family history of Scoliosis or Scheuermann’s disease, although this may not always be the case.

2.How can I tell if my child has Scoliosis?

To be absolutely sure, a proper diagnosis has to be made by a medical practitioner or Scoliosis professional. Here is a guide however to examine your child for Scoliosis that should take approximately two minutes.

Simply follow the guidelines below, make observations and go through the questionnaire to establish if your child needs further investigation.

  • Ask your child to take off their shirt and stand in front of you.
  • Go through each test, using the pictures as a guide, then circle the “Y” for yes, or “N” for no next to each question.
  • Once you have completed the tests, total the “Y’s” and “N’s” and refer to the chart.
  • If you have answered “yes” to more than one of the questions, it’s suggested that your child should have further investigations done.
  • Take this questionnaire to your medical practitioner, or contact one of the numbers listed below to find out what steps to take and where to find help.


Your child should stand on a level surface facing toward you.

  • Are the height of the shoulders uneven?  Y / N
  • Are the hips uneven?   Y / N
  • Is the distance between the arms and torso uneven, or unequal on one side?  Y / N


With your child facing toward or away from you.

  • Arms straight out ahead with palms touching together, bend forward from the hips about 90 degrees then, clamp the hands between the knees (knees as straight as possible).
  • Head hanging down, neck relaxed (child looking at their knees).
SIDE NOTE: Another adolescent spine condition, known as hyper-kyphosis (Scheuermann’s), may also be detected by doing a similar test. 
  • Is one shoulder blade protruding or sticking up more than the other?  Y / N
  • At the upper part of the back, is there a raised rib ‘hump’ on one side or the other?  Y / N
  • Does the rib area look uneven or unbalanced?  Y / N
  • On the opposite side to the rib ‘hump’, lower down, is there another ‘hump’ near the waist area?  Y / N
  • Does one hip appear to be higher or not level to the other?  Y / N
  • Can you see the spine making an “S” or “C” shape?  Y / N
  • Does your child often stand with one knee slightly bent?   Y/N

Now look across the surface of the back near the upper part: 

  • If the back does not appear smooth or even, does the back shape ‘peak’ or have a sharp angle to it? Y / N                      (see red arrow)                                 
  • Do you constantly remind your child to “sit up or stand straight”, or ‘pull your shoulders back’? Y / N 
  • Does your child complain of back ache or pain near the middle of his/her back?  Y / N

That’s the end of the Scoliosis self-assessment.

If you have made observations that are a concern, get in touch with a Scoliosis specialist.

CLICK HERE for more information about Scoliosis and other spinal deformities. 

Want to know more? These links are super helpful: