Scoliosis that develops during adulthood is known as adult degenerative scoliosis (ADS). There are two forms of ADS:
- Degenerative scoliosis, which affects adults who have already had problems with scoliosis in the past. Degenerative scoliosis is caused by the degeneration of the facet joints and intervertebral discs (the moving parts of your spine).
- De novo scoliosis, a curve in the spine that first appears in adulthood. Again, this is caused by wear and tear of the discs and facet joints; the key difference is that the patient never had a curved spine before.
Both types of ADS are typically diagnosed after the age of 50.
Curvature of the spine due to degeneration can occur slowly over time. Someone with adult degenerative scoliosis may experience a variety of pains, ranging from a dull back ache to sciatica; it may also make walking difficult or, in extreme cases, impossible.
How does ADS develop?
Everyone experiences natural degeneration of the facet joints and the intervertebral discs as they grow older. However, for some people, the degeneration process is accelerated. If degeneration takes place on only one side of the spine, the resulting imbalance can cause the spine to curve sideways.
Interestingly, most cases of ADS show no significant symptoms, and so adult degenerative scoliosis can often go undetected.
Common ADS symptoms include:
- Back Pain - This pain will not start suddenly; instead, it will slowly worsen as the degeneration gradually progresses. The initial pain can begin as just a dull ache or a slight stiffness; this is usually located in the lower back, but in some cases it may occur a little higher up. ADS-related back pain tends to be at its worst first thing in the morning, improving once the patient gets out of bed and starts moving around. The pain can return towards the end of the day, or after any vigorous or strenuous physical activities. Sitting reduces some of the pain, as the facet joints are under less pressure when seated.
- Nerve Root Impingement - This can occur when a bone overgrows or when there's a spur in the bony hole where the nerve root exits the spine. If your nerve root becomes impinged, you may suffer from severe pain, numbness, tingling, and in some cases a weakness in the lower back and/or leg. These symptoms are usually felt on just one side of the body.
- Neurogenic Claudication - This occurs when the patient's lumbar spinal canal narrows, resulting in the nerves becoming compressed and causing leg pain and muscle cramps when the patient begins to walk. This type of pain affects both legs, and begins after the patient has walked a short distance; in more severe cases, it is even felt when the person is sat down or flexing forward.
- Postural Changes - As with any other form of scoliosis, an ADS patient's shoulders and hips may start to become uneven as a result of their spinal curvature. If the angle of the curve becomes too severe, the patient may experience balance problems, and it may even push the rib cage against the heart or other internal organs.
How can degenerative scoliosis be treated?
Most cases of adult degenerative scoliosis can be treated non-surgically using physical therapy. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat our patients using a non-surgical method that we call the ScolioGold method. This treatment regime is based around the Schroth method, but it also incorporates a range of well-established non-surgical spinal techniques that ensure all aspects of the patients's condition are fully treated.
We're constantly monitoring and developing our treatment techniques to reflect the latest advancements in the non-surgical field.
If you suffer from adult degenerative scoliosis and you would like to find out more about our non-surgical treatment methods, please do not hesitate to contact us.