Scoliosis In Adults

July 4th, 2019 Becki Andrus

Adult Scoliosis – Types, Treatment & Recovery

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops a curvature, which can be either s-shaped or c-shaped. The spine naturally curves at the cervical spine or neck, along with the thoracic spine that progresses from the neck down to the abdomen, and the lumbar spine which is located in the lower back. However, scoliosis is a different form of curvature that can often occur during the growth spurt that is experienced during childhood and adolescence.

There are three different types of scoliosis that can develop in children and teenagers, the most common form is referred to as idiopathic. This condition usually emerges between the ages of 10-18, and a detailed explanation of this condition and the other types of scoliosis that are experienced by children and adolescents were discussed in this recent article.

However, this condition can also emerge as we experience the aging process, and the focus of this particular article will shift toward scoliosis that can occur in older adults.

Types Of Scoliosis For Adults

It has been estimated that 6-9 million patients in the U.S. are dealing with this condition regardless of age. But when this does take place as a result of the aging process, there are several reasons why this can occur.

This can often be diagnosed as degenerative scoliosis, which is also referred to as adult-onset scoliosis. This can develop during the aging process, as a curvature of the spine emerges while the joints and the discs which absorb the shock between your bones deteriorate over time.

It has been projected that at least 60% of adults in the U.S. over age 60 have a contending with some form of degenerative scoliosis, and the discomfort that results from this condition can impact other areas of the body beyond your back.

But it is important to emphasize that not all scoliosis that occurs with adults is of the degenerative form. Adults can also experience the effects of idiopathic scoliosis, which begins during childhood and adolescence.

Some of the older adults who are contending with this form of scoliosis were diagnosed and treated when they were adolescents, while other older patients were not surgically treated when they were younger. The symptoms of idiopathic scoliosis can eventually become more significant as we age when it was not treated when it occurred at a younger age. As time advances, the joints and bones of the spine accumulate wear and tear. This can cause the discs to tilt, which will create a curve in the spine.

In these situations, pain can be the first symptom that is noticed. The deterioration of the bones can place pressure on the nerves in that area which results in weakness and numbness. 

Other symptoms that begin to emerge include imbalanced shoulders or hips, numbness or weakness in the legs. There can be increased difficulty in standing straight, and it might become more challenging to walk. Shortness of breath can also take place, along with bony bumps in the lower back that are referred to as bone spurs.

The symptoms of degenerative scoliosis can include spinal stenosis, which is which occurs when the spinal canal narrows. This can cause the nerves that progress through your lower back to compress. This can result in pain, inflammation, weakness, and numbness.

This can create difficulty in functioning normally and the discomfort that accompanies degenerative scoliosis can increase as you become more involved with various activities.

Scoliosis Treatments

When your doctor has provided an official diagnosis of scoliosis, there are several aspects of the situation to assess in order to determine the most effective method of treatment. The recommendation that you receive will be based largely upon the combination of your age, the type of scoliosis that you are dealing with, and how likely it is that the curve will intensify.

Other factors that will be included in the determination of a treatment plan include your family history, how long you have been dealing with the change in your spine, how extensive the curvature is, where it is located, and whether or not it is causing other problems issues such as issues with the bladder or bowel.

The majority of adults who develop scoliosis can avoid surgery. Instead, your physician will usually create a plan that will emphasize relieving discomfort rather as opposed to adjusting any curvature in our spine. This could include physical therapy or medications.   

However, a form of surgery might be recommended if the spinal curve has progressed to 50 degrees or higher. There are factors that will be considered when surgery is being considered, including the exact age of the patient, weight, whether he or she is a smoker, and whether other health issues exist that could create complications.

These forms of surgery include a posterior approach, which is the most common, and transpires while the patient rests on his or her stomach.

At Orthopedic Associates, We Are Here To Help

If you are concerned that you might be experiencing scoliosis, or if you have any questions about discomfort, illness, or an injury that is limiting your ability to remain involved in physical activity, the professionals at Orthopedic Associates want to provide our expertise.

With eight board-certified physicians and two board-eligible physicians in orthopedic specialties, our doctors have been practicing medicine for a combined total of 183 years.  This helps Orthopedic Associates offer a full spectrum of musculoskeletal care, along with in-house physical therapy, our state-of-the-art technology, and an on-site surgical center.

We also encourage you to consult one of our neck and spine doctors if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Hard, knotted muscles in your neck or shoulders
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain
  • Tightness in the general neck-and-shoulder area
  • Stiffness as you go to look over your left or right shoulders
  • Headaches originating from the base of your skull and continuing to the front of your forehead

Our specialists also provide on-call availability, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can treat these additional neck conditions:

  • Anatomy of the Spine
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Coccydynia
  • Compression Fracture of the Spine
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Herniated Disc(s) (Cervical)
  • Kyphosis
  • Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
  • Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
  • Muscle Strain of the Upper Back (Trapezius Strain)
  • Myelopathy
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Post-Laminectomy Syndrome
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal Epidural Abscess
  • Spinal Infection
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Where Lower Back Pain Begins
  • Where Neck Pain Begins

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