For a rising number of adults, advanced scoliosis—commonly known
as a curvature or rotation of the spine—is limiting their activity
and causing pain, difficulty breathing and even embarrassment.
But Orthopaedic Surgeon
Matthew C. Lafleur, MD
North Oaks Orthopaedic Specialty Center
shares that there is good news for many of the 6 million Americans who
have spine conditions like advanced scoliosis. Although many adults with
scoliosis will never need treatment, those who do may benefit from spinal
surgery to correct the deformity.
According to the National Scoliosis Foundation, scoliosis can run in families.
While people of all ages can develop the condition, it usually appears
between the ages of 10 and 15. Those who are sedentary and overweight
are more likely to develop scoliosis.
If you suffer from scoliosis, you have plenty of company.
notes that adult scoliosis is becoming increasingly common in senior adults,
showing up around age 60 and affecting more than 30 percent of patients
over 70 years old.
Why the increase in adult scoliosis?
points out that degenerative arthritis is “the main culprit”
now that people are living longer than ever before.
“Today’s seniors are more physically active than previous
generations. I encourage them to continue their exercise routines under
physician guidance. Seniors are more likely to seek help for back pain
than to pass it off as a normal part of aging, which may be the reason
we are seeing more adult scoliosis,”
Most adults with scoliosis can live a normal, active life without difficulty.
For those with more advanced cases, help is available. Scoliosis surgery
to reduce the severity of the spinal curve, relieve pain and to prevent
the curvature from getting worse may be recommended.
“Treatment for adults with scoliosis depends on the type of scoliosis
and their symptoms. If no disabling symptoms are present, we usually monitor
the patient with periodic physical exams. To help alleviate pain, we sometimes
recommend medications or exercises to strengthen muscles supporting the
back. However, for those with disabling pain in the back or legs, deformity
correction may be an option,”
Types of scoliosis in adults include: congenital (caused at birth); idiopathic
(occurs for no apparent reason); and neuromuscular (developing as the
result of another condition like cerebral palsy or physical trauma).
Some adults with scoliosis have curvature that began during their teen
years and slowly increased as they aged. The curve can be located anywhere
in the spine. These adults may or may not have received treatments for
their scoliosis when they were young.
Other adults have spinal curvature that began later in life due to wear
and tear on the spine or conditions, such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis.
These conditions cause deterioration of the discs in the back and may
often lead to degenerative scoliosis. This condition usually occurs in
the lower, or lumbar, part of the spine. It can cause back pain, stiffness
and numbness or shooting pains down the legs. Individuals with severe
cases of degenerative scoliosis may experience disabling symptoms and
have a hard time accomplishing daily activities like bathing, dressing
or even walking. It also can cause a gradual, progressive leaning forward
deformity, leading to pain and inability to stand for long periods.
The lumbar vertebra are the bones that make up the lower part of the spine.
These bones are cushioned by discs that act as shock absorbers for the
spine. Lumbar fusion replaces the disc with bone, which eventually heals
in place. The bone is held in place by screws or rods as it heals. This
type of surgery avoids disturbing the back muscles, allowing for an easier
recovery. It straightens the spine in a safe manner, balances the torso
and pelvic areas and can maintain the correction long term.
Although pain isn’t a common symptom, there are several warning
signs that may indicate you have scoliosis. If you notice any of these
signs and symptoms, you should see a doctor:
- Increase in curvature
- Uneven shoulders
- One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
- Uneven waist
- One hip higher than the other.
If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine also will rotate or twist,
in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs on one side
of the body to stick out farther than on the other side. Severe scoliosis
can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.
For more information, contact
North Oaks Orthopaedic Specialty Center