Explore Adult Scoliosis
When scoliosis is discovered after puberty, it is considered “adult scoliosis.” This type of scoliosis can be the result of untreated adolescent scoliosis, or it can be something that happens in adulthood.
With most adult scoliosis, like adolescent scoliosis, doctors do not know what causes it.
There are a few physical symptoms of scoliosis that might cause a person to visit a spine doctor, including:
- One shoulder or hip may be higher than the other
- One shoulder blade may be higher than the other
- A “rib hump” is visible from behind, particularly when bending over
- One arm hangs lower than the other
Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a thorough physical exam, in addition to requesting an x-ray of your spine. The x-ray will allow the doctor to see the exact curvature and measure it. X-rays are important for long-term monitoring to make sure the curve is not getting worse.
Doctors will try conservative treatments before any surgical options are considered. Common nonsurgical options include medication, exercise/physical therapy and/or a back brace.
Using a spine brace will not correct the curvature in the spine, but it can provide pain relief. Physical therapy and exercise are important in treating adult scoliosis because they can help strengthen the abdominal and back muscles and help you learn to keep proper posture.
For patients who have a spine curvature of 40 degrees of less, surgery is not a typical recommendation. Surgical correction for adult scoliosis has high risks, which is why conservative treatments are tried first.
If the pain from adult scoliosis is intolerable or if the progression of the curvature is getting worse, your doctor may recommend surgery. There are different procedures that our spinal surgeons perform for adult scoliosis depending on the severity and location of the curve. One type of procedure a surgeon might recommend is a spinal fusion. Almost all surgeries will involve derotation, which means that metal screws, plates or rods are used straighten the spine and hold everything in place while the bones in the back heal.