Degenerative Spine Conditions – Scoliosis

Among the degenerative changes that can take place in the spine, scoliosis is one of the more dramatic conditions that can result. Scoliosis, or the abnormal curvature of the spine, is known largely as a spine condition that can affect children and adolescents, but it can also develop in patients who are aging and experiencing normal deterioration of the spinal components. Also known as adult scoliosis, this form of the condition is characterized by the formation of a lateral C- or S-shaped curve in the lumbar (lower back) spine and most commonly occurs in patients aged 65 years or older.

Causes

Degenerative scoliosis in the spine typically affects the lumbar spine due to its weight-bearing and movement responsibilities. Over the years, spinal components can succumb to the effects of wear and tear and cause a number of changes to take place that affect overall spinal stability. For example, one of the contributing factors behind the development of adult degenerative scoliosis is the presence of osteoarthritis in the facet joints.

These jointed areas of the spine connect individual vertebrae together and help facilitate the spine’s wide range of motion. Due to aging and other factors, the cartilage that lines facet joints deteriorates, which can lead to dysfunctional joint movement, bone spur formation, pain and inflammation. As deterioration progresses, the affected lumbar vertebrae can begin to shift to the left or right, creating the curvature that is characteristic of scoliosis in the spine. Patients may report ill-fitting clothing, uneven shoulders or waist and one hip that is higher than the other. Spinal curvature may also cause compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, which can cause localized lower back pain, as well as radiating pain, muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling in the lower extremities.

Treatment

Treating adult scoliosis in the lumbar spine typically begins conservatively (non-surgically) with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy. If surgery becomes an option, patients should explore all of the options available to them, including the minimally invasive fusion procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive fusion procedures can help address the deformity caused by adult scoliosis in the lumbar spine without the need for large incisions or cutting of muscles that are commonly associated with traditional open back fusion. Instead, we remove deteriorating discs, decompress neural structures (as needed), realign vertebrae and insert minimal stabilizing implants, all through small incisions. Soft tissues are pushed aside, eliminating the need for disruption. As a result, our procedures allow patients to recover faster and with less postoperative pain than they would experience after undergoing an open spine fusion.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more.