What is Adult Scoliosis? This is a common question and concern for adults. Did this get missed when I was a child? How did this adult scoliosis happen?
Adult scoliosis can develop for many reasons. It can be a progression from an adolescent/childhood scoliosis, or it can start new as an adult and progress from there. Unlike adolescent scoliosis, adult scoliosis often is accompanied with arthritic changes and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
Adult scoliosis is a curvature of the spine greater than 10 degrees. Scoliosis is a rotational deformity of the spine, and the body compensates for this rotation with the classic “S” shaped scoliosis curvature.
So what do patients with Adult Scoliosis feel?
Typically, patients are pretty pain free until the adult scoliosis becomes progressive. This can vary depending on what part of the spine is involved. Patients with adult scoliosis often complain of relentless back pain as their primary reason for seeking intervention. These patients may have back pain, shooting leg pain, or both. They may have difficulty with walking long distances and difficulty with completing a long work day. Typically, compared to patients without scoliosis, the medical literature states that these patients have much more pain that the average population, but usually does not interfere with seeking the profession that they desire.
How do we treat Adult Scoliosis? As with most spinal conditions, conservative management is the main stay for treatment. This includes physical therapy, injections and anti-inflammatory medications. When these fail, a conversation is had about expectations and the benefit versus risks and options of surgery for adult scoliosis.
There are many studies from the Scoliosis Research Society describing the long term benefits of surgery for adult scoliosis, but patient’s expectations need to be realistic. Recovery requires time and patience. Being a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, I tailor every surgical decision making process to each unique patient and their specific disc pathology using evidence based medicine. This can vary, obviously, depending on the pathology and the patient.