Scoliosis: where on the spine can this condition occur?

Scoliosis, or excessive lateral spinal curvature, can be located in any region of the spinal column. While the condition most commonly develops in the lumbar (lower) spine, it can also occur in the cervical (upper), and more rarely, the thoracic (middle) regions of the spine. In adults, the development of scoliosis can be related to a previously stabilized case that was discovered in adolescence, or it can develop in relation to other degenerative spine conditions.

Patients may be prompted to see a physician after noticing a side-to-side C- or S-shaped spinal curve. Other indicators are an uneven gait, as well as misaligned shoulders and hips. While there can be pain related to scoliosis, it does not necessarily stem from the curvature itself. Instead, it is usually associated with a related spinal condition such as a bulging disc.

Causes and symptoms of scoliosis

Adult-onset scoliosis, or degenerative scoliosis, is most often caused by asymmetrical deterioration of the spinal elements. Conditions like degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can cause a loss of symmetry as the spine bends unnaturally to the left or right side. In addition to affecting appearance and mobility, scoliosis can progress to the point that it causes severe or persistent:

  • Back pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Respiratory problems (usually related to scoliosis in the thoracic region)

Scoliosis treatment options

Many patients are able to find relief from the symptoms of scoliosis through conservative treatments without the need for surgical intervention. For example, targeted exercises and physical therapy designed to strengthen the back muscles can provide positive, long-term results in managing the condition. Heat applications and medications for pain, inflammation and muscle spasms can also be helpful.

If conservative treatments do not bring desired relief or symptoms worsen and surgery is considered, a highly invasive traditional open spine operation is not necessarily the only option. At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons perform minimally invasive outpatient procedures that offer many advantages compared to traditional open back surgery. This includes a shorter recovery time and less scarring^ because only a small, muscle-sparing incision is required to access the spine.

We also offer minimally invasive stabilization procedures as an alternative to a traditional fusion, in cases where progression of the spinal curvature needs to be reduced. To learn if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, contact our team to receive your no-cost MRI review.*