Scoliosis is a condition which causes a curvature of the spine. When scoliosis occurs in childhood, the individual may experience rotation of the spine that results in damage to the spine and to various organs in their bodies. Traditionally, the only treatments used for scoliosis were wearing braces or having surgery in which a metal rod is placed inside the spinal column to hold it in place. Not all children with scoliosis advance with the same severity that requires surgical intervention. Those who have mild to moderate cases are often treated by pain management doctors who also work to prevent the curvature(s) of the spine from increasing.
Adults typically believe that if they did not have scoliosis as a child, they will not have it as adults. In reality, scoliosis can occur during adulthood when degenerative arthritis causes a breakdown of the facet joints so that the spine begins to shift to one side, resulting in the same “S” curvature that results in early-onset scoliosis.
How Adult Scoliosis is Diagnosed
Some adults who develop scoliosis do not have pain from the condition and never seek treatment from pain management doctors to learn their diagnosis. Some may experience pain as a direct result of the condition or they may be experiencing pain from something else when the scoliosis is discovered. Scoliosis is easily viewed on an X-ray so that diagnosing the condition may be as simple and accidental as taking a chest X-ray to confirm Pneumonia and detecting the spinal curvature.
Differences Between Adolescent and Adult Scoliosis
When children develop scoliosis, it has no known cause. While those with mild forms may not recognize their condition at the time it occurs, others will advance severely so that they will experience damage to other areas of the body as a result. Many will visit pain management doctors to monitor their conditions and provide any needed treatment while they are still young.
Degenerative scoliosis, on the other hand, has a known cause. As adults age, the facet joints deteriorate and cause the curvature of the spine. Adults with degenerative scoliosis will often experience pain from the inflammation of the joints, not the curvature of the spine. Another incorrect assumption about adult scoliosis is that the condition does not advance. While it progresses slowly, the curve will continue to increase over time. It is just at a much slower rate than that which occurs with adolescent scoliosis. Therefore, the treatment they receive is for their pain, not for the condition itself.
Degenerative scoliosis occurs in aging adults in the same way that osteoarthritis can impact bones. The cartilage which protects the joints is worn away, causing the bones to rub together and cause inflammation and pain to occur. This usually occurs gradually over time with symptoms usually being the most severe in the mornings. Standing and walking are often difficult, sometimes causing pain from lumbar stenosis, a constriction of the lumbar spinal canal that result from the enlargement of the facet joints. For most adults with degenerative scoliosis, treatment is sought from pain management doctors as an elective choice to improve quality of life.