Scoliosis is usually a condition that is discovered during childhood. This abnormal spinal curvature often affects children and teens who are still in the active stages of physical development. However, it should not be assumed that there is no risk for scoliosis to initially occur in adulthood. Adult scoliosis is a real probability and one that we need to know about if we want to reduce our chances of being affected by it.
What causes adult scoliosis?
When an adult develops an abnormal curve in their spine, it has to do with degeneration. The intervertebral discs and facet joints may wear down at any time due to a number of factors, such as excessively poor body mechanics. The breakdown of these spinal structures can result in asymmetry of the spinal column in which one side of the spine carries more of the strain of physical movement than the other. In addition to degeneration, it is possible for adult scoliosis to develop secondary to spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, or a compression fracture.
Aside from an apparent spinal curvature, indications of adult degenerative scoliosis include:
- Irregular gait, or way of walking.
- Persistent back pain.
- Back stiffness.
- Spinal instability.
- Breathing problems.
Treating Adult Scoliosis
A spinal specialist can diagnose adult degenerative scoliosis by conducting a comprehensive medical history and examination. This exam may observe balance and physical appearance. Muscle strength may be analyzed, and final screening may also involve imaging such as x-rays, CT scan, or MRI.
If scoliosis is diagnosed, treatment is determined based on the severity of the abnormal curvature. Non-surgical treatments such as spinal exercises, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy may coincide with wearing an appropriate spinal brace. If the curve becomes severe, surgery may be necessary.
Spinal surgery for adult scoliosis has two purposes. One is to correct the shifting that has taken place, and the other is to stabilize the spine to avoid further problems. Adjusting the spine’s curve with appropriate fixtures can prevent further degeneration related to the stress the spine encounters when imbalanced. In some instances, spinal fusion may successfully avoid the worsening of the curve that exists.