Scoliosis, or abnormal curvature of the spine, is often only associated with adolescents. However, adults can have scoliosis too. Adult scoliosis is defined as abnormal curvature of the spine in a patient over the age of 18. Sometimes adult scoliosis results from untreated childhood curvature that has progressed. When scoliosis develops during adulthood without a history of childhood curvature, it is usually classified as adult degenerative scoliosis.
Changes to the body caused by the aging process may result in degenerative spinal conditions. When parts of the vertebral column begin to age, some people begin to experience back or neck pain. Common degenerative spinal conditions include:
Sometimes, the effects of these conditions cause the spine to curve to the left or right. Abnormal curvature can cause:
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The accurate diagnosis of adult degenerative scoliosis or other forms of scoliosis should be made by a physician expert in spinal disorders.
Most cases of adult scoliosis are treated without surgery. Treatment may include:
Surgical correction of adult degenerative scoliosis is uncommon. However, it may be necessary if:
If spine surgery is necessary, it may include spinal instrumentation with fusion. Instrumentation (i.e., rods, screws) and fusion (bone graft) join two or more vertebrae and stabilizes the spine. The surgeon discusses surgical procedures that may be helpful and their associated risks and benefits if you are a candidate for surgery.
Many cases of adult scoliosis need no treatment at all. Adult scoliosis may in some cases be helped by lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, improved diet, smoking cessation, and regular exercise.
Patient Guides to Spine Conditions