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Scoliosis Treatment In Adults

Scoliosis usually occurs when a child or teen is still growing (paediatric scoliosis). "Adult scoliosis" is called when it starts or is found after puberty. This is because the curve is found after the skeleton has finished growing.

What is a curved spine?

The spine is made of bones and runs straight down the back with only a slight curve. Having it functioning properly is crucial. Scoliosis is a condition where this curve gets worse, making the spine look like the letters "C" or "S." It can be present at birth or develop later in life. Scoliosis can range from being so mild that it's hard to notice to be so bad that it changes the spine's shape or makes it look ugly.

Why does scoliosis happen in adults?

Depending on the type of scoliosis, different things can cause it in adults. Most cases of scoliosis in adults are degenerative (spine curves as you age). Adult scoliosis might be childhood scoliosis that wasn't found until the person was an adult. Some cases of scoliosis in teens may get worse as they age and need treatment. Idiopathic scoliosis is caused by something no one knows. It is usually found when a child or teen is growing. Adult idiopathic scoliosis is when it starts or is found after puberty. This is because the curve is found after the skeleton is fully developed.

What are the signs of scoliosis in adults?

Most cases of scoliosis in adults don't cause symptoms, but pain may start to show up. Many things can cause back pain, like arthritis, inability to stand straight, weak core muscles, and lack of exercise. If there is pressure on the nerves in the lumbar spine, the legs may hurt, feel numb, or get weak.

In some cases, the body may change in ways like:

  • Loss of height
  • The pelvis and hips are not in the right place.

How is scoliosis in adults found?

If your doctor thinks you have adult scoliosis, they will need to take a history before coming up with a treatment plan. This could lead to questions like:

  • Family background
  • Write down the first time your spine changed.
  • Changes in curves (determined from earlier X-rays, if available)
  • If pain is present and where it is
  • Problems with the bowel, bladder, or muscles, which could be signs of nerve damage or pressure from scoliosis that is more serious.

During a physical exam, the doctor will look at your back to see how your spine is shaped and how you move. Your reflexes, senses, and muscle strength may also be checked to see how well your nerves work.

Your doctor may order X-rays if they are needed. X-rays that look at your spine from the front and the side will give a complete picture. Then, your doctor can tell if you have scoliosis and, if so, how bad it is.

How is scoliosis in adults fixed?

Care that isn't too extreme

Most cases of adult scoliosis can be treated without surgery by having a doctor check on you regularly, taking over-the-counter painkillers, and doing core-strengthening exercises to make your stomach and back more robust and flexible. If you are a smoker, you must stop immediately. Research has demonstrated that smoking accelerates the aging process.

Most of the time, your doctor will suggest some physical therapy to help you stay strong and feel better. Some of these are:

  • Trying to get better posture
  • Exercises with low impacts, like swimming
  • Stretch every day
  • Keeping busy

If oral painkillers and physical therapy don't help, your doctor may suggest an epidural (given around the spinal cord) or nerve block injections for better pain relief.

Surgical treatment

Some adults with scoliosis need to have surgery. Because there is a chance that spinal surgery will cause problems, this is the last option. Here are some reasons why surgery might be suggested:

  • Pain. Surgery may be needed if back and leg pain from scoliosis gets terrible and doesn't go away with conservative treatment.
  • Spinal imbalance. How far the scoliosis is getting and if surgery is needed depends on how well the spine is still balanced. When we stand, our heads should be centered over the pelvic midline when viewed frontally and over the hip joints laterally. If the curve gets worse enough that this isn't possible anymore, patients tend to get worse over time and have more pain and disability.
  • You need surgery to make your life better. Even though surgery isn't recommended to make someone look better, some people can't stand the pain and other symptoms of their spinal deformity. Their spinal misalignment also affects their ability to do basic things and their overall quality of life. In these situations, surgery is the only way out. For younger adults, a cosmetic deformity may be a big reason to have surgery, but this is usually not the case for older adults. Spine surgery can be done in many different ways, depending on the situation. Most surgeries stabilize the spine, get it back in balance, and take pressure off nerves. During spine stabilization surgery, the spine's bones are fused with bone grafts and then held in place with metal implants.

New surgical techniques and computer-assisted navigation systems make it possible to use less invasive methods and speed up the healing process.

When an adult has scoliosis, surgery can help improve their quality of life and relieve pain caused by the condition. Surgery for spinal deformity in adults usually has excellent results if done well and for the right reasons. Even so, the surgeries come with many risks and should be avoided if possible.