Over the past several decades there have been some major advances in the management of spinal deformity generally and of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) in particular. But is it enough?

It is now well established that early detection of AIS, and treatment where indicated, result in better outcomes as might well be expected on general principles. This is the basis of screening adolescent girls for scoliosis because in the early stages of curve development the girls have no symptoms.

The screening of schoolgirls in the age range 10-12 years (Years 6 to 8 in most Australian states) commenced in many countries world-wide in the 70s, but there was considerable debate about the cost-effectiveness of the programs. Apart from the not inconsiderable cost factor, there were no data to establish clearly the efficacy of brace treatment. This was later demonstrated in a suitably designed international clinical trial.

School screening was introduced sporadically in Australia and to a variable extent in most states and territories. By the early 90s the cost factor led to the abandonment of most programs in government schools and a new strategy was needed.

The Spine Society of Australia introduced The National Self-Detection Program for Scoliosis. In essence this entails the distribution of a simple brochure for the target age group (10-12 years of age) in which the outward signs of scoliosis are described. If, after reading the brochure, a girl or her parents think she may have a curvature then follow-up with the family doctor is recommended.

The optimum time for the detection of scoliosis is just after the onset of the adolescent growth spurt and this corresponds to Year 6 for the majority of girls. It is also recommended for Year 8 girls so as to catch those whose growth pattern differs from the average. No case has ever been made for the screening of boys for scoliosis or for any other forms of spinal abnormality in both sexes.

School screening, when properly conducted, is an effective method for detection but the cost of a national program seemed to have been a major issue.

But are schools even distributing this info? Apparently not!

Scoliosis affects up to 3% of children and teens and is often more common in girls than boys.

1 in 1000 suffers will need surgery. But if it is detected early enough surgery can be avoided.

Once a mandatory test, very few schools bother checking students anymore.

One mum feels not enough is being done!

Mouths of Mums recently chatted to Bettina who has a young daughter suffering from scoliosis. She is pushing for screening at school to be reintroduced.

She told us that unfortunately of all the schools and parents that she has had contact with, none of the schools have ever received the flyers that should have been distributed.

She is now desperately trying to create awareness, to let parents, teachers, sport coaches etc know what to look for and to let patients know if detected early enough there are other options other than surgery.

Her daughter was detected early enough so she has been lucky to avoid surgery and instead undergo a therapy called schroth that is specific to scoliosis.

Bettina shares her thoughts in the interview below:

Share your comments below

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  • I don’t ever remember having my spine checked.


  • I know of 2 Mums who laid on their sides during labour and onto turned onto their backs for examinations. One had so much pain in her back during labour that she was passing out during contractions. One Mum is now in her 60s and is crippled with arthritis in her spine and very rarely leaves the house as it is just too painful. Doctors have run out of safe ideas to reduce the pain enough.


  • I took my children for chiropractic visits on s regular basis, because I required adjustments from an early age. One nontced my son had slight cirvitute and alertered me to this. He is fine, in his mid 40’s but it was never noticed by any other medical check ups


  • I remember at school at the start of every year we had to have a back check.


  • Important to educate us all about this (and many other problems that can emerge as we grow, even into old age!). But not sure how you do it… other than some website that helps you ‘self-check’…. otherwise screening would be expensive. This is just one form of scoliosis. There are others. Sometimes you don’t even know you have a mild scoliosis, and making sure you loosen the tight areas and work on strengthening the weak can do a lot to improve it and prevent it getting worse or causing problems.


  • They should be on top of this a bit of expenditure now will save the health system money on surgeries being avoided and save a lot of future trauma to these kids.


  • Good to know that there is a program in place somewhere to look after health. I wouldn’t know where to start.


  • Would be good to have school screening implemented.
    I’ve a cousin who had severe scoliosis when young, which was possible to correct with a back brace.


  • never heard of this before, another thing to remember and consider when the time comes


  • A very interesting article. I think I remember the old screening


  • Scary, I wasn’t aware of this or the statistics associated with it and my eldest has reached the age group where it will be noticeable if present. Being health back to our schools! I don’t understand why they’ve pushed religion with chaplains but dropped screening in schools. It works and it’s a good way to get the adolescent population as healthy and safe as possible.


  • good to know, I will be sure to discuss with my kids’ GP.

    • Good on you – GP’s really are the best source of knowledge and can plot ongoing health matters.


  • I recall having a test with the PE teacher in high school and she used a ruler.


  • Distributing information seems a pretty basic first step.


  • I have a 10 and 8 year old and have never done this. Thanks for the reminder.


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