by Nevada Pain
Scoliosis is a condition wherein the spinal column has taken on an abnormal sideways curve that often looks like a letter “S” or C.” It’s a condition that affects both children and adults.
Adult degenerative scoliosis specifically is different from the typical scoliosis that occurs in children. It happens when an individual reaches skeletal maturity and eventually the spine experiences degeneration. This condition mostly affects the lumbar spine.
Here are common questions and answers to help you better understand adult degenerative scoliosis.
Q: How is Degenerative Scoliosis Different from Idiopathic Scoliosis?
A: There are two types of adult scoliosis. The first type is when a person develops scoliosis during adolescence, and the condition gradually progresses as the individual’s skeletal structure matures in adulthood. The second one occurs in adulthood because of the deterioration of the facet joints and discs and arthritis.
With degenerative adult scoliosis, the intervertebral disc starts to degenerate and lose water. These cause abnormal stress and arthritis in the facet joints. An abnormal curvature then starts to occur, leading to a bigger curve.
An individual may also suffer from a flat back, which happens when the spine’s normal front to back curve is lost. The main difference between the two is that adult degenerative scoliosis has a known cause and idiopathic scoliosis does not.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: The major symptom is pain, which may intensify from time to time and impact a person’s day-to-day life. The pain tends to occur in several parts of the back as well as down to the area of the buttocks, hips, and upper thighs. The degeneration may also lead to pinching of spinal nerve roots, which is known as spinal stenosis.
Other symptoms include leg pain, achiness, and numbness. An inability or difficulty standing up straight is also common with scoliosis. As the curvature of the spine progresses, an obvious change in posture and appearance may occur, including a hump. Shortness of breath can occur in cases where the curvature is extreme in the thoracic spine because of the affect it has on the lungs.
Q: How is it diagnosed?
A: Adult scoliosis can be diagnosed through plain x-rays. MRI is the best method to determine spinal stenosis. If you can’t get an MRI, a good alternative is CT myelogram.
Q: How is adult scoliosis treated?
A: If you’re experiencing minimal pain only, then treatment may not be necessary. For most people who have scoliosis, treatment is optional and minor pain and symptoms can be treated using physical therapy, pain medications, and braces that support the spine.
Medial branch blocks or facet blocks may provide lasting pain relief, for arthritis in the facet joints. If the treatment works effectively but provides less pain relief over time, you may choose to repeat the procedure or undergo radiofrequency neurotomy procedures. If you have spinal stenosis, epidural steroid injections may be an effective treatment option.
Surgery such as spinal fusion or decompression is often the last resort when treating adult scoliosis as there are considerable risks involved.
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