How Does Adult Degenerative Scoliosis Differ from Average Scoliosis?

Adult degenerative scoliosis is caused by the degeneration (i.e., breakdown) of the spine over time. Average scoliosis is diagnosed when the spine is curved and is often diagnosed in children and adolescents. Degenerative scoliosis is the product of damage to the joints and discs of the spine. The spinal curvature that is seen in degenerative scoliosis is not due to the spine growing in a curved manner, it is the result of degeneration of the spine itself. Degenerative scoliosis is commonly diagnosed in the elderly and is often due to osteoporosis or osteoarthritis.

The exact cause of degenerative scoliosis is currently unknown. It is postulated that degenerative scoliosis is exacerbated by micro-traumas occurring over time that repeatedly damage the spine. These micro traumas may be due to activities that are jarring to the spine. An example of an activity that may be harmful to the spine is operating a jackhammer. Other precursors may include traumas (e.g., car accident, falls, etc.) and may cause an individual to receive a diagnosis of degenerative scoliosis.

Symptoms of Degenerative Scoliosis

Individuals with degenerative scoliosis may have a range of symptoms depending on their condition. Individuals that experience degenerative scoliosis often seek medical help when they begin to experience pain in their hip, legs, back, or buttocks. The pain that individuals with degenerative scoliosis feel in their back is often due to muscle spasms (i.e., spine arthrosis). The pain resulting from spine arthrosis typically radiates throughout the thighs, hips, and buttocks. Individuals with degenerative scoliosis may also experience pain due to their spinal nerves being pinched. This type of pain often is described as shooting pain in the legs, numbness of the legs, or sciatica. The pain resulting from pinched nerves can be on one or both sides of the body depending on which nerves are being pinched. may result in symptoms that are severe, mild, or no symptoms at all. Symptoms that are common in individuals with degenerative scoliosis include:

  • Weakness in both legs or one leg
  • Numbness in both legs or one leg
  • Back pain that becomes worse when standing or performing physical activities
  • Feelings of electric shock in both legs or one leg
  • Feeling relief to back pain when lying down

Symptoms of degenerative scoliosis typically emerge gradually and over time. The symptoms experienced due to degenerative scoliosis may be worse upon waking, better after the day progresses, and become more intense after the day is over. Due to the way in which degenerative scoliosis occurs, the treatment for symptoms target the degeneration of the spine itself. With degenerative scoliosis the curvature of the spine typically progresses in a slow manner, and the curvature does not usually need to be corrected in order for an individual to feel symptom relief.

Treatment of Degenerative Scoliosis

Treatment for degenerative scoliosis is dependent on several factors. Medical professionals create personalized treatment plans for each patient in order to treat their specific issues related to their degenerative scoliosis. For most cases, non-invasive treatment is usually able to relieve symptoms. Non-invasive treatments for degenerative scoliosis can include:

  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Pain management
  • Physical Therapy

In other cases, surgical treatment may be required. If an individual’s degenerative scoliosis results in spinal stenosis, surgery must take place. Spinal stenosis leads to the spinal canal becoming more narrow, which puts pressure on the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis usually develops due to the growth of bone spurs (i.e., bone overgrowth). In order to increase space for nerve roots, surgery must be performed to remove the bone that encases the spinal canal (i.e., laminae). The surgical procedure to remove the laminae is known as a laminectomy. A laminectomy allows the nerve roots to have enough space to function adequately. A spinal fusion may also be conducted in order to make sure the spinal column itself is balanced and stable after a laminectomy is performed. A spinal fusion is performed by placing bone grafts within the joints of the spine in order for it to fuse with the existing bone of the spine.

If you would like more information regarding degenerative scoliosis please contact us at 205-637-1363 for more information. We look forward to speaking with you!

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