School Screening Programs for Early Detection of Spine Problems

Spine Screenings at Schools

Conditions such as scoliosis, referring to any abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine, can affect patients earlier in life than degenerative conditions associated with age. In order to identify individuals who may be at risk, many states require students to undergo preventative screenings to detect spine problems at a point when treatments are likely to be more effective.

Reasons for Spine Screenings

The main purpose of school screens for spine problems, notably scoliosis, is to prevent the need for surgery that’s often required when serious spine problems are detected later in life. If detected early, especially at a time when the spine isn’t fully developed to its adult size, non-surgical spine treatments such as bracing tend to be more effective at correcting the problem.

Pros and Cons of Spine Screenings in Schools

While respected groups, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics, acknowledge the possible benefits of school screenings, various studies have yielded conflicting results. Detractors of the school screenings point out the possibility of exposing children to low levels of radiation if further testing is recommended and the added cost of treatments that may not be necessary. However, it’s worth mentioning that costs associated with the initial spine screenings are minimal.

A Typical School Screening

School screenings are usually performed by the school nurse, typically during annual health exams. The child will be asked to bend forward so the nurse can check the curvature of the spine. If a problem is suspected, a recommendation is made to pursue further evaluation from a spine specialist. X-rays are usually taken to confirm a diagnosis. Some of the symptoms of scoliosis include, but are not limited to:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Inward or downward spine curves
  • Sunken or asymmetrical chest shape
  • Pelvis thrusting forward to one side
  • One leg that appears shorter

If scoliosis is confirmed, appropriate treatment recommendations are made which can range anywhere from physical therapy to spine surgery.

To learn more about scoliosis among young adults, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at 310-828-7757 and speak with one of our spinal specialists. We are here to help.