FAQ’s on Adult Scoliosis
Adult scoliosis is scoliosis occurring when a patient is skeletally mature instead of a juvenile. Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine which can produce symptoms of pain and affect breathing. Severe curves can affect spinal nerves. The most common difference from adult scoliosis over a pediatric case is the symptomatic pain associated with the progressive curvature.
What are the causes of Adult Scoliosis?
The most common cause of adult scoliosis is for a patient to have had childhood scoliosis that went either undiagnosed or untreated. Other causes include deformity due to spinal degeneration, osteoporosis-based curves, spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra) or in rare cases, tumorous growth. Neuromuscular disorders can result in scoliosis, such as with polio or muscular dystrophies.
What are the symptoms of Adult Scoliosis?
Primary symptoms include stiffness and low back pain, compression of one or more nerves, the presence of spinal stenosis, or an alteration of posture to cope for the curved spine. Altered postures strain the lower back and legs, causing fatigue.
How is Adult Scoliosis diagnosed?
In many cases, patients will have noticeable symptoms warranting a clinical visit. Our physician will use a combination of X-rays, CT scans, and MRI testing with an evaluation of the patients’ medical history. A curve visible by X-ray is a strong indication that scoliosis is present (Current classification systems for adult degenerative scoliosis, 2013).
What are the treatment options for Adult Scoliosis?
Medication: Over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to mitigate scoliosis symptoms. Patients with severe symptoms may have prescription strength medication prescribed to them by our physician.
Physical Therapy: Monitored exercise during physical therapy can be used to assist the patient in strengthening the core abdominal muscles and the muscles of the back. Strengthening these can provide a better musculature support system for the spine, and may slow the rate of curvature in patients with degenerative-based scoliosis.
Bracing: Benefit may be gained from a short-term use of bracing to assist in providing spinal support, reducing strain on the back.
Patients who have a more severe curve resulting in a loss of function, or a curve affecting one or more nerves, may have surgical correction suggested (Surgical treatment of adult degenerative scoliosis, 2013). The goal of surgery is to provide pain relief and provide stability to the spine so that a patient’s daily quality of life will improve.
Injections: Injections have two main purposes: as a diagnostic tool, and as therapeutic treatment. By injecting a numbing agent into an area of pain, our physician will be able to confirm if the injected area is the source of pain, or if the pain is the secondary effect of a separate cause.
Patients with symptoms in the legs, arms, or abdomen due to a compressed nerve root may be given a therapeutic injection for relief. Numbing the afflicted nerve will cause the transmission of pain signals to the brain to cease, providing instant relief.
Spinal Fusion: Fusion is preformed when scoliosis curvature has reduced stability to the point of debilitation, severely impacting the functionality of a patient’s spine. Fusion is designed to join the curved vertebrae to reduce curvature and provide spine support.
Vertebroplasty: A form of fusion, vertebroplasty inserts a small catheter into the curved spine with fluoroscopic guidance to inject special cement. This cement will solidify the surrounding bone to create a base of solid support (Percutaneous vertebroplasty in adult degenerative scoliosis for spine support, 2013).
Lateral Interbody Fusion: Designed to be minimally invasive, lateral interbody fusion combines fusion and posterior instrumentation to create a spinal support structure. While a relatively new technique, nearly every patient receiving the procedure was able to obtain relief and maintain it for 1 year (Extreme lateral interbody fusion for the treatment of adult degenerative scoliosis, 2013).