Degenerative scoliosis symptoms

Degenerative scoliosis symptoms can be debilitating and include lower back pain, difficulty breathing and one shoulder or hip that sits higher than the other. However, degenerative scoliosis does not always cause symptoms and some only discover the condition after receiving an X-ray, MRI or CT scan for a different condition. This is because scoliosis, which is excessive side-to-side curving of the spine, is not painful by itself and usually becomes symptomatic only when a nerve in the spine becomes compressed.

If you have developed degenerative scoliosis symptoms, learning about their cause is an important first step in getting treatment that can get you back to the people and activities you love.

Neural compression and degenerative scoliosis symptoms

Scoliosis develops most commonly among adolescents, but adult-onset or degenerative scoliosis also occurs. This is usually the result of age-related breakdown of the spinal joints and discs that are crucial to spinal movement and support. Degenerative scoliosis is common in the lower back region of older patients and can be related to issues like spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis. Patients who had a previously stable case of adolescent scoliosis can also be diagnosed with this condition if the curvature begins to progress.

Symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can develop in the spine if any displaced spinal anatomy — such as a bulging disc or swollen joint — puts pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. These symptoms can be both local and also radiate out to the extremities. The location of radiating symptoms depends on the region of the spine where the nerve compression occurs:

  • Cervical — This is the upper spine, running from the base of the skull to the top of the ribcage. Degenerative scoliosis symptoms here can travel out to the shoulder, arms and hands.
  • Thoracic — Scoliosis is rare in the middle spine because it is attached to the ribcage, making it rigid. Nerve compression here would affect the chest and abdomen.
  • Lumbar — The lower spine is prone to degenerative scoliosis because it supports so much weight while needing to be flexible. Pressure on the nerves related to spinal curvature can cause pain in the hips, buttocks and legs.

Nonsurgical treatments for degenerative scoliosis

Conservative, nonsurgical treatment for degenerative scoliosis is usually the first course of action recommended by physicians after they make a diagnosis. Common treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy and lifestyle changes like losing weight. Many patients are able to find relief from degenerative scoliosis symptoms with conservative treatments and do not require surgery.

Laser Spine Institute

If nonsurgical treatments have done little to relieve your degenerative scoliosis symptoms after several weeks or months, your physician may recommend surgical treatment. Before you consent to a traditional open neck or back surgery, consider minimally invasive spine surgery from Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures avoid many of the difficulties of traditional open back surgery by using a smaller, muscle-sparing incision that leads to a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication.

For more information and to receive your no-cost MRI review* to find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures, contact our Care Team today.