How do we screen for scoliosis as physical therapists?
Did you know that certain physical therapists can perform a non-invasive, thorough exam to determine if you may have scoliosis? You may have been told by a fitness instructor or pediatrician that you may have scoliosis. It is important to distinguish if the curvature is a structural scoliosis (classic C curve or S curve seen on x-ray) or a functional scoliosis (due to muscle imbalances)
While a physical therapy assessment can be helpful with determining the presence of a scoliosis, it is also important to obtain a formal diagnosis through an x-ray with an orthopedic specialist who focuses on the spine.
Here are some of the tests and measure we use during our physical therapy assessments:
1) Adam’s Forward Bend Test
This is a sensitive test used frequently to screen for scoliosis. Your physical therapist will ask you to bend over and they will examine your back to see if there are any signs of spinal and trunk asymmetries.
2) Physical Observation
Your PT will observe your posture in various positions ( Adam’s Forward Bend, sitting, standing) and dynamic movements such as a squat or single leg balance to make note of any asymmetries and imbalances in the shoulders, trunk and pelvis.
The scoliometer is a tool that looks like a combination of a level and ruler used to measure the rotation of the curvature or ATR ( angle of trunk rotation).
A physical therapist will not only screen for scoliosis – they will determine what kind of exercises will benefit you and help address any pain you may have. They will assess your range of motion, strength, mobility and functional movement patterns in order to create a home program that is specific to your scoliosis curvature. If you are wondering if you have scoliosis and are seeking out assistance in creating a movement routine to address your overall health, starting out with a physical therapy assessment can be beneficial and provide you with more clarity on your next steps ahead.