FAQ’s on Adult Scoliosis
What is Adult Scoliosis?
As a patient grows, the spine of the body develops its own natural twists and curves. For some patients, the spine may not grow correctly leading to a twist or curve in the wrong direction. These improper curves can range in severity, with some patients experiencing only a small curve with little, to no, symptoms (10 degrees or less) to debilitating curves (100 degree curvature) that may severely impact the function of the spine. Some patients with severe curves are even forced to adopt a slouching stance or an awkward gait in an effort to cope with their curved spine.
What causes Adult Scoliosis?
If scoliosis occurs after puberty has occurred, or is simply not diagnosed until this time, it is considered to be a case of adult scoliosis. It is possible for scoliosis to be present while the patient is a youth but remain undiscovered until the adult years. For some patients, it is possible that the spinal curvature was not severe enough and did not require treatment while the patient was young but has worsened with age to the point of requiring treatment.
There are three major causes of spinal curvature that a patient may experience as an adult that could not have occurred as a child. These types of curve are:
Congenital Curve: Congenital scoliosis is a condition that is present at birth and will last throughout a patient’s life. For many patients, congenital scoliosis is not severe enough to warrant treatment at a young age and, while diagnosed, is typically ignored until treatment is needed. Age can lead to this occurring, with general spinal degradation occurring from spinal usage.
Paralytic Curve: This curve can occur when the muscles that support the spine are not functioning properly. Spasms in these can cause the spine to be forced out of alignment, which in many cases is negligible at first. However: once this misalignment has occurred, usage of the spine can worsen until severe curvature is present. Paralytic scoliosis normally occurs as the result of spinal injury that leads to full or partial paralysis.
Myopathic Curve: This is another type of scoliosis where the spinal curvature is affected by complications in the surrounding musculature. The root cause is different however, as myopathic curves are the result of either a muscular or neuromuscular condition. These include conditions such as cerebral palsy, polio, and general muscular dystrophy.
The symptoms of Adult Scoliosis
When scoliosis develops in later stages of life there are noticeable differences in the symptoms, with the primary symptom being a visible deformity of the spine. While this may not result in pain for the patient, many of these deformities will cause the body to adopt an asymmetrical posture in an attempt to cope for the curvature. This can take the form of one shoulder or hip being raised higher than the other, or may result in the appearance of one shoulder blade jutting out of the back.
How is Adult Scoliosis diagnosed?
If a patient believes they are experiencing a significant curvature of the spine, diagnosis can be achieved through the use of a physical examination and imaging techniques. The examination will consist of the patient’s medical history being collected, noting when symptoms first appeared, if there is a visible representation of the curve, and if pain is present. If the physician believes scoliosis is present, it will be confirmed through the use of X-rays and MRI’s to view the spine.
Treatment options for Adult Scoliosis
Conservative methods are often attempted first with the goal of avoiding spinal surgery. These include medication for the pain symptoms and chiropractic treatment in an effort to properly align the spine. Some patients may be issued a brace to help provide spinal support and help prevent the condition from worsening. Spinal surgery is used only as a last resort for patients who require it, as the risk involved is much higher.
If you or a loved one is suffering from adult degenerative scoliosis, help is available. Let the California Pain Network connect you with the best pain management clinics in San Diego, including Board Certified pain doctors, chiropractors and more.
Call (619) 500-1573 for more information and scheduling today!