Scoliosis symptoms and diagnosis

Scoliosis is a condition characterized the abnormal curvature of the spine, usually in an S- or C-shape. It can occur in any region of the spine, and is either characterized as structural, meaning the spine has a fixed curve, or nonstructural, meaning the spine is structurally normal and the curve is only temporary.

There are several types of scoliosis, each of which has its own causes. These types are called:

  • Congenital — Congenital scoliosis is present at birth and is usually the result of a malformed or unusually fused vertebrae.
  • Neuromuscular — Abnormalities in the body’s muscle-nerve pathways, as with conditions like cerebral palsy or spina bifida, cause this type of scoliosis. If left untreated, neuromuscular scoliosis may lead to paralysis, but the condition can be treated with spinal bracing, growth rods or surgery.
  • Idiopathic — This is the most common form of scoliosis and is most often detected when the affected individual is of middle school or high school age. Its cause is currently unknown, but experts believe it may be linked to genetics.
  • Degenerative — Also known as adult scoliosis, this condition develops during adulthood, and can be caused by an injury or degenerative spine conditions such as spinal osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.

The symptoms of adult scoliosis

Adult or degenerative scoliosis may sometimes remain asymptomatic. Other times, however, individuals with the condition may experience symptoms like uneven hips, lower back pain and even difficulty breathing when their spinal curvature is severe. Furthermore, scoliosis may also result in nerve compression, which can lead to an additional set of symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling

Adult scoliosis diagnosis

It is important for patients with adult scoliosis to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment from a physician, in order to keep their condition from worsening. The diagnostic process for adult scoliosis is fairly simple.

First, the physician will listen to the patient describe his or her symptoms and medical history in detail. The physician may then conduct a series of tests to examine the patient’s reflexes, range or motion and nerve function. Finally, an X-ray, MRI or CT scan will be ordered to look for any abnormal curvature in the spine.

After arriving at a diagnosis of adult scoliosis, the physician will probably recommend conservative, nonsurgical treatment to manage the patient’s symptoms, rather than correcting the curvature in itself. These treatments may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy and/or lifestyle changes such as weight loss, when necessary.

If several months of conservative treatment are not enough to control the patient’s symptoms, of if the patient’s spinal curvature is severe upon diagnosis, he or she may need to consider the surgical options available to correct their scoliosis.

At Laser Spine Institute, we perform more minimally invasive, outpatient surgeries each month than any other spine surgery provider in the world, making us the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. We use advanced, muscle-sparing techniques to help patients get their lives back, and our procedures have shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can also provide you with a no-cost review* of your MRI to determine if you are a candidate for our procedures.