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How to Tell if You Have Scoliosis

How to Tell if You Have Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by the lateral (sideways) curvature of the spine in one or several places. It usually manifests in childhood or adolescence during growth spurt, but adults can also develop the condition. How can you tell if you have scoliosis?

How to tell if you have scoliosis

Looking for the early signs of scoliosis must take priority because it prevents the worsening for the spine curvature.

Moreover, early detection increases the chance of successful treatment outcomes. To check for scoliosis, you can:

Check for uneven shoulders

One of the first noticeable signs of scoliosis is uneven shoulders.

When the spine curves sideways, one shoulder may appear higher than the other. You can easily observe uneven shoulders by standing in front of the mirror or asking someone to see if your shoulders are aligned.

With uneven shoulders, you may also notice that your:

  • Head is not centered over the body
  • Arms are hanging at different levels
  • Body is leaning to one side when you’re standing
  • Clothes don’t fit well

Perform a forward-bending test

You can tell if you have scoliosis by performing a simple, non-invasive test called forward-bending test.

Forward-bending test is a simple test used by medical practitioners to assess how much the spine is tilted to one side. Doctors use a device called “scoliometer” to measure the tilt, but you can also perform the test without the tool.

Before you do the test, invite someone to help you. Stand straight, and then bend forward at a 90-degree angle as if you’re touching your toes. Basically, they need to see if there’s a difference between the heights of the two sides (left and right) of your back when you’re bent forward. The unevenness of your shoulders may also be more pronounced if you do this test.

Check for uneven waist and hips

Finally, you can tell that you have scoliosis if you notice uneven hips and waist. The easiest way to check is to stand in front of the mirror in your undergarments. If you have tilted waist and hips, one side of the undergarment might look higher.

How to tell if you have persistent scoliosis

People don’t often consult a doctor because of mild scoliosis, but if it persists and gets worse, the symptoms become more concerning.

To tell if your scoliosis is getting worse, you can:

Check for notable asymmetry in your body

Persistent scoliosis will make mild symptoms more pronounced. For instance, the unevenness of your shoulders may be more noticeable because one of the shoulders is already protruding or “sticking out.”

Assess if you have protruding ribs

If the curvature worsens, the spine may twist or rotate, causing one side of the ribs to “stick out.”

Observe for back pain

Of course, worsening scoliosis can lead to pain and discomfort.

The sideways curvature in itself can hurt, but, pain can also occur due to the resulting compression of spinal nerves. Please note that scoliosis-related pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek medical care.

how to tell if you have scoliosis

Feel for a bulge in your back

Patients can often tell precisely where they feel the pain by pointing out a bulge in their back. Like uneven ribs, the deformity may be due to spine rotation or twisting.

What to do if you notice signs of scoliosis

Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some may worsen over time. If you notice the early signs of scoliosis, consult your doctor right away.

Mild scoliosis that doesn’t cause any concern other than uneven posture may not require treatment. But, the doctor may look more closely if you’re experiencing pain. Regular check-ups are also necessary to assess if the curvature is getting worse.

If scoliosis gets worse and remains untreated, it may lead to complications that interfere with routine activities like eating and sleeping.

For instance, progressive curves can compress the lungs and cause breathing difficulties. It may also put pressure on the abdomen, causing a “premature feeling of fullness.”


Key Takeaways

The earliest signs of scoliosis include abnormal posture manifesting as uneven shoulders, waist, and hips. You can also perform a forward-bending test to tell if you have scoliosis.

While most cases are mild and do not require treatment, consulting a doctor is still the best course of action to obtain a clear diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Learn more about Brain and Spine Disorders here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


4 Early Warnings Signs of Scoliosis You Shouldn’t Dismiss
Accessed November 19, 2020

What is a Forward Bending Test?
Accessed November 19, 2020

The Early Signs of Scoliosis
Accessed November 19, 2020

Accessed November 19, 2020

Scoliosis In Adults: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments
Accessed November 19, 2020

Accessed November 19, 2020

Accessed November 19, 2020

Accessed November 19, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 18
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.