Scoliosis - Diagnosis

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How was your scoliosis detected and diagnosed?

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How is scoliosis diagnosed?

If you think you have scoliosis, you can see your doctor for an examination. The doctor will ask questions, including if there is any family history of scoliosis, or if you have had any pain, weakness, or other medical problems.

The physical examination involves looking at the curve of the spine from the sides, front, and back. The person will be asked to undress from the waist up to better see any abnormal curves. The person will then bend over trying to touch their toes. This position can make the curve more obvious. The doctor will also look at the symmetry of the body to see if the hips and shoulders are at the same height. Any skin changes will also be identified that can suggest scoliosis due to a birth defect. Your doctor may check your range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes.

The more growth that a person has remaining increases the chances of scoliosis getting worse. As a result, the doctor may measure the person's height and weight for comparison with future visits. Other clues to the amount of growth remaining are signs of puberty such as the presence of breasts or pubic hair and whether menstrual periods have begun in girls.

If the doctor believes you have scoliosis, you could either be asked to return for an additional examination in several months to see if there is any change, or the doctor may obtain X-rays of your back. If X-rays are obtained, the doctor can make measurements from them to determine how large of a curve is present. This can help decide what treatment, if any, is necessary. Measurements from future visits can be compared to see if the curve is getting worse.

It is important that your doctor knows how much further growth you have left. Additional X-rays of the hand and wrist or pelvis can help determine how much more you have to grow. If your doctor finds any changes in the function of your nerves, he or she may order other imaging tests of your spine including an MRI or CT scan to look more closely at the bones and nerves of your spine.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Katie Dafoe, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: December 06

I discovered that I had scoliosis when I went to the hospital (I am a car accident victim). I got a really bad whiplash. My neck and back were really sore. I went to the hospital, I got in right away. The doctor asked me if I had scoliosis. I never heard of it so I said no. At this point the doctor ordered x-rays. When I came back he informed me that I did in fact have scoliosis. I went to the hospital because I am in quite a bit of pain. I have to go to the doctor and have more x-rays done. I am currently looking for a chiropractor and I am wearing a back brace I bought from the pharmacy so I can walk around. I cannot currently perform daily routines.

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Comment from: Julie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 14

My scoliosis was discovered when I was 11 years old. My Mama was making me a dress and thought she cut the pattern wrong when she was unable to close the zipper. I was put into a Milwaukee brace 24/7. My curves were 65 and 35 degrees. I even wore body cast in the winter months in hopes of better correction. At the age of 15 I had to have surgery, 11 fusions in the thoracic region with placement of 2 Harrington rods; this was in 1974. In 1976 the rods were removed, things were stable at that time, I had no pain and I was released from my doctor. I had a wonderful doctor and do not blame him for anything. Well in 2012 I started having sacroiliac (SI) pain but didn"t think much about it. I got worse, after several x-rays and doctors, I still have severe scoliosis and have lost what correction I obtained with surgery. I have rheumatoid arthritis and spurs encroaching on my spine, osteoporosis, and lots of pain now. I am unable to work and have been told by my doctor that surgery is no longer an option for me as well as injections for the pain. So at this time I"m on pain medications and unable to work. Everyday household chores are impossible. Maybe one day there might be some new options to explore, but for now I take one day at a time.

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