A human spine has natural curves. When the spine develops abnormal curves to the left or right of the center of the spine, it is called scoliosis. It is a painful medical condition that even changes the way a person walks. Scoliosis is generally diagnosed in children and adolescents. However, it can occur in adults, too. When scoliosis begins to form after complete skeletal growth, it is called adult scoliosis.
There are four main types of adult scoliosis:
- Primary degenerative scoliosis: When adults who have had no history of scoliosis until adolescence develop the condition in their adulthood due to aging, spinal degeneration occurs and is called primary degenerative scoliosis.
- Idiopathic Adult Scoliosis: When scoliosis developed during adolescence progresses into adulthood, it is called idiopathic adult scoliosis. Such cases are rare, though.
- Pathological: When tumors develop near the spine, they exert pressure and cause a curvature to form, called pathological scoliosis.
- Traumatic: Spine can develop an abnormal curvature due to accidents involving spinal injury. Such a condition is called traumatic scoliosis.
It is recommended to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol as smoking and obesity accelerate degeneration of the spine. The three sections of the spine can be affected by scoliosis – cervical or the neck, thoracic or the upper back, and lumbar or the lower back.
SymptomsScoliosis developing in adulthood is possibly due to people living longer and leading physically active lives. Just as a machine wears out after years of constant use, the human body undergoes wear and tear with age and regular movement. The spine bears the brunt of it as it supports the weight of the human body. Back pain is usually the first sign of scoliosis in adults that indicates wear out. Besides back pain, other symptoms of scoliosis include a tingling sensation, uneven shoulders, and stooping as the spine degenerates.
When the spine gets narrow, the pain increases when walking or even standing. Nerves surrounding the spine can get compressed and lead to sciatica with pain, numbness, or weakness in the leg.
DiagnosisGenerally, doctors will question the patient about the family’s medical history. Then, a physical examination of the back is done to check the shape of the spine. With the help of a few tools, the reflex, sensation, and muscle strength are checked. Doctors run through specific tests to determine the severity of the person’s condition. An X-ray will gauge the degree of the spine’s curve from the center. It could range from 10 to 100.
If the curve were less than 40 degrees, then simple treatments such as medicines and exercises would be sufficient to prevent further damage to the spine. If the curvature is higher than 50 degrees accompanied with pain, then surgery is considered. However, there is an element of risk attached to spinal surgeries. Therefore, it is essential to find the right hospital to get the surgery done. This is to eliminate further damage to the spine.
After the surgery, the rehabilitation process starts. The patient must undergo therapy sessions to build strength to the spine, improve flexibility and fitness.
TreatmentIf the individual does not feel any pain or discomfort, then treatment is not required. Painkillers can be taken to reduce pain. Exercises can help maintain weight and reduce pain. Otherwise, chiropractic treatment and even acupuncture can be explored to reduce and possibly avoid the need for surgery. Injections are another option. However, they offer only a short-term solution to the pain. A brace can also be used when the individual is not healthy enough for surgery. In some cases, it may weaken the muscles that support the back.
Surgery is recommended for spinal curves that have increased to more than 50 degrees and whose routine has changed due to limited mobility or those who cannot stand up straight. The most common type of surgery is a spinal fusion using artificial implants inserted from the back. Screws are placed on the vertebrae and welded with bone chips.
The patient must avoid bending and lifting heavy things for the first month after surgery is performed. Then, with proper exercise, they may return to everyday life and work.
Risks Associated with SurgerySurgeries involving the spine involve a lot of risks. Patients take a long time to recover from surgery. The surgery could fail if the pain in one area shifts to another rather than getting eliminated. Also, an infection could develop or perhaps a blood clot. In rare cases, the patient can even develop paralysis. However, if a team of specialists works together using the latest tools and techniques, then the rate of success is high.
At Align Clinic, we use the latest technology and take a holistic approach to treat adult scoliosis. If you experience back pain, then book an appointment with us for a check-up.