Scoliosis: How to recognize its onset in adults

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by excessive, side-to-side curvature of the spine. While many people are aware of the type of scoliosis that develops in children and adolescents during growth spurts, adult-onset scoliosis is relatively rare. Left untreated, the curvature can worsen and lead to pain and further degeneration of the spine. That’s why if your life is being affected by back pain possibly related to scoliosis, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What causes adult-onset scoliosis?

In adults, the condition usually won’t occur until after the age of 65. This is mostly due to the gradual deterioration of the spinal joints over time, along with the continual wear associated with the natural aging process. Spinal curvature progresses slowly in adults and does not typically cause pain by itself. Instead, any discomfort is usually caused from inflammation related to the joints as they lose their ability to flex and bend smoothly.

Symptoms from adult-onset scoliosis can be similar to other degenerative spine conditions, consisting of shooting pain, muscle weakness, and tingling or numbness in the extremities. Scoliosis is usually suspected as the cause of these symptoms because of distinct visual cues. Curvature of the spine can cause uneven shoulders, one hip to be higher than the other, or even visible curving of the spine. Even if you are experiencing these symptoms and see some of these signs, only a doctor or spine specialist is truly qualified to diagnose the condition.

Treatment options

For adults, the treatment of scoliosis is different than for children, where the main objective is to straighten the curvature. The goal for adult-onset scoliosis is pain relief and improving flexibility and range of motion. In the majority of adult-onset scoliosis cases this can be done successfully by developing a plan of conservative options with your doctor such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Pool therapy
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Epidural injections
  • Chiropractic manipulation

Usually, through a combination of these measures, you can successfully manage the discomfort to the point that you can remain functional and participate in daily activities. While surgical correction of adult-onset scoliosis is not commonly recommended, it may become an option if conservative treatments fail to provide the relief you need for a good quality of life.

If surgery is necessary

If you have adult-onset scoliosis and have been unable to find needed relief for your symptoms, you may be a candidate for surgery. In order to make a decision with the best chance of providing lasting relief, you should explore all of the options available to you. At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive spine surgery. Our highly skilled surgeons have perfected minimally invasive procedures that are performed through small — often less than 1 inch — incisions. This technique allows our patients to recover more quickly^ when compared to traditional open back surgery.

While surgery for adult-onset scoliosis does not attempt to correct the curvature, Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive stabilization procedures that can slow the progression of the curving in some cases. To learn more about Laser Spine Institute and the options we offer, please contact our team of caring professionals today.