Adult Degenerative Scoliosis
Curvature of the spine isn’t an adolescent-only disease. While adult degenerative scoliosis can be caused by an untreated childhood curvature of the spine that went undiagnosed, scoliosis in adults may have no connection to childhood health issues. In fact, there may no known cause of the condition.
As we age, our bodies continue to change. This is particularly true in the case of the spine. As parts of the column begin to deteriorate, the first sign of a problem people will experience is pain in the back or the neck. This could be an indication of several spinal conditions, including stenosis, degenerative disc disease, osteoporosis or vertebral compression fractures.
Any one of these conditions can cause your spine to curve right or left away from center. Not only does this result in problems with your physical appearance, but it can cause you to appear as if you’re listing to one side because the spine has become unstable. As a result, you may have an irregular gait or a humpback or find it hard to stand or sit comfortably. There also may be damage to the nerves and bone.
An accurate diagnosis is essential to treating adult degenerative scoliosis. Your doctor will take a complete medical history, including assessing the severity of the problem and your efforts to treat it. It’s important to share any history of scoliosis in your own family.
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam to assess whether your movement is limited, if you’re having trouble balancing, if your reflexes are affected or if there is weakness in your muscles.
Finally, your doctor will conduct a series of diagnostic tests. This may include x-rays, a CT scan or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and more accurately assess the extent of the scoliosis.
In most cases of adult degenerative scoliosis, treatments are non-surgical. This may include the use of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, exercises to improve posture and strength, and bracing.
Surgery is usually only a consideration in cases where non-surgical treatment has failed and there is persistent and high levels of pain, the curvature has progressed beyond 45 degrees or there is the presence of cardiovascular issues that can be corrected through surgery. Surgical options usually involve the fusion of one or more vertebrae to correct the scoliosis.