Many people think of an unflattering back brace when they hear the term
scoliosis. Fortunately, treatment options, including bracing, have evolved.
Scoliosis is defined as a side-to-side curvature of the spine. Adult scoliosis
is categorized into two main types:
Idiopathic Scoliosis in which patients are diagnosed in childhood or adolescence and continue
to experience the condition into adulthood.
Degenerative Scoliosis that develops in adulthood as a result of disc degeneration often caused
by arthritis or osteoporosis in older adults.
Jeffrey Deckey, MD, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon at
St. Joseph Hospital, explained that degenerative adult scoliosis can develop in individuals
after age 40 as a result of degenerative disk disease and facet arthritis.
In addition, patients with preexisting idiopathic scoliosis can worsen
because of degenerative disease.
Adult scoliosis can progress over time, resulting in back or leg pain.
In some cases, adult scoliosis can cause severe weakness, pain and numbness
in the legs. This is usually the result of a degenerative arthritic process
that causes stenosis and nerve root compression. If left untreated, patients
with moderate or severe cases can develop a curved posture that prevents
them from standing up straight.
Scoliosis can be diagnosed by a clinical exam and X-rays to assess the
precise degree of the scoliotic curvature.
“In addition to X-rays, an MRI may be performed if a patient experiences
leg symptoms. This may indicate the presence of stenosis or other spinal
Jeremy Smith, MD, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon at St. Joseph Hospital.
In less severe cases, treatment for adult scoliosis may consist of spinal
bracing, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications or epidural steroid
injections to relieve pain in the back or legs. If pain worsens, surgery
may be required.
“For patients with severe spinal curvatures of 50 degrees or more,
a fusion procedure may be performed to repair the curve and prevent further
progression of scoliosis,” Dr. Smith said.
Your doctor can help you determine which treatment option is right for
you. If surgery is required, minimally invasive procedures offer quicker
recovery times, reduced risk of postoperative complications and minimal
scarring at the incision site.
Learn more about
Dr. Deckey and
Dr. Smith. Learn more about
St. Joseph Hospital.