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Degenerative Scoliosis & Spinal Deformities

What Is Adult Or Degenerative Scoliosis?

Adult or Degenerative Scoliosis occurs when the spine begins to curve or bend in unnatural ways due to age-related spinal degeneration.

At times, adult scoliosis can occur due to the progression of an undiagnosed instance of pediatric scoliosis. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes degenerative scoliosis can develop solely in response to the aging process and adulthood. Typically emerging after the age of 40, degenerative scoliosis cases have risen steeply as large numbers of the US population continue to age.

Adult degenerative scoliosis is an adult-onset, abnormal curvature of the spine. Unlike the relatively unknown and genetic causes for scoliosis in children, the adult-onset causes are much more transparent. Degeneration of the spine leads to instability and changes in the actual anatomy of the spine. For example, as we age, our intervertebral discs deflate, our vertebrae lose their mass, and our cartilage recedes. These naturally occurring conditions, along with the help of gravity, can induce adult-onset scoliosis in susceptible individuals.

Needless to say, a number of other conditions can lead to the development of a scoliotic curve in adults. These include: degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal fractures, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and spinal tumors. Each of these conditions can lead to scoliosis, and conversely, scoliosis can lead to each of these secondary conditions.

Do I Have The Symptoms Of Adult Or Degenerative Scoliosis?

Estimates for the prevalence of degenerative scoliosis conflict greatly, with reports ranging from 2.5% to 25% of the aging population. To complicate matters further, these numbers can also vary depending upon factors such as age and gender.

Furthermore, keep in mind that degenerative scoliosis often co-occurs in the presence of another spinal disorder. However, despite differences in underlying causes, there are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for. Symptoms of adult or degenerative scoliosis often include:

  • Abnormal Curvature: An abnormal curve, bend, or twist to the spine often described as a C or S-curve. Intensity of the curves can range anywhere from 10 degrees to as high as 70 degrees or more.
  • Uneven Gait or Posture: An irregular stride can develop due to an imbalance in the spine and uneven distribution of the upper body’s weight. Favoring one leg over another can lead to further damage in the hips, feet, and limbs and contribute to worsening spinal degeneration.
  • Forward Head Posture: With severe thoracic curvature, the head can begin to pitch forward toward the ground in front of you. This can lead to difficulty with visibility of surroundings and ambulation.
  • Back & Leg Pain: Pain, tension, and inflammation in the low back and back of the legs can result from abnormal posture and strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Pain, tingling, or a burning sensation can result due to pinched nerves and/or compression of the spinal cord.
  • Heart, Lung, & Bowel/Bladder Complications: In extreme cases of thoracic curvature, compression of the lungs and heart can affect respiration and circulation. Furthermore, scoliotic curves in the lumbar spine can lead to issues with urination and elimination. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to seek immediate medical attention.

How Dr. Lowenstein Can Help

Keep in mind that you may experience only one, or all of the above symptoms when confronting adult or degenerative scoliosis. Additionally, many of these symptoms can also be attributed to other spinal conditions. The best way to achieve a decisive diagnosis is to make an appointment with a trusted and experienced spine surgeon.

Dr. Jason Lowenstein, a world-renowned spine surgeon, has extensive experience in the realm of degenerative adult scoliosis and other spinal deformities. While dealing with this stressful and often uncomfortable condition, Dr. Lowenstein and his team of clinicians will be there to provide support and effective treatment to alleviate your pain and distress.

Following an extensive workup of your medical history, combined with a physical exam and advanced imaging techniques, Dr. Lowenstein will offer you the least invasive and most effective treatment options for you. Whether this includes medication and physical therapy, or if surgery is the best option, you can trust the expertise of Dr. Lowenstein and his award-winning team.