April 01, 2012

Adult scoliosis

Dealing with spinal imbalance

Adult scoliosis

Scoliosis is the development of asymmetrical curvature and twisting of the spine. It's commonly thought of as a disease that occurs in adolescents, and is sometimes associated with wearing a back brace to keep the curve from worsening.

In fact, scoliosis is more common in older adults than in adolescents. Some adults who had scoliosis as adolescents may see gradual worsening of their scoliosis with age, but the majority of older adults with scoliosis didn't have it earlier in life.

Scoliosis in older adults is a distinctly different problem from that in adolescents. In adults, back braces are used sparingly, if at all. Adults often benefit most from regular exercise. If surgery is needed, breakthroughs have made certain scoliosis procedures far easier on the body and far more effective than in the recent past.

What's happening?

Scoliosis in older adults is usually caused by the wear and tear (degeneration) of the spine that commonly occurs with age. This may include back problems such as:

  • Degenerating disks — Disks are the pads between your vertebrae that act as cushions and allow for spine flexibility. Disk degeneration is a natural part of aging, and diminished disks can place more pressure on joints of the spine. When a disk degenerates unevenly, eventually scoliosis can result.
  • Osteoporosis — This weakening and thinning of bone can cause the vertebrae to fracture and compress. Asymmetric compression can contribute to scoliosis.
  • Prior back surgery that removed...