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Scoliosis as explained by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute St. Louis

Most people consider scoliosis to be an adolescent condition that affects the curvature of the spine — something to be checked for in children but that doesn’t necessarily affect adults. While this is partially true, there is a more common form of scoliosis that can impact adults, and it can develop as a consequence of the natural aging and deterioration of the spine.

If you have been diagnosed with scoliosis as an adult, you should take the time to research what this condition means for your spine and the treatment options available to help you maintain a normal quality of life. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you have as you read through the information surrounding this condition.

Definition and causes of scoliosis

Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine, commonly noticeable in the shoulder blades and hips as they become misaligned. While this can be present in children as part of a genetic disorder, adults can develop a degenerative version of this condition as the spine loses stability during the natural aging process.

As the spine weakens with age, the discs in the spine that support and cushion the surrounding vertebrae may wear down, allowing the vertebra above the disc to shift out of alignment. If this happens, the spine may begin to develop a slight curve, which could worsen over time and lead to degenerative scoliosis.

Symptoms of scoliosis

The first indication that you have scoliosis is often the development of painful symptoms, such as:

  • Pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Stiffness in the spine, often in the lower back
  • Grinding feeling of bone-on-bone contact during movement
  • Uneven hips
  • Abnormal curvature in the spine
  • Pain in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs or feet

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your pain. Your doctor will run a series of tests and diagnose your condition.

Diagnosing scoliosis

Scoliosis is diagnosed after a series of tests have been performed, including a physical exam and imaging test (often an MRI or CT scan). Your doctor will also ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and medical history to determine if scoliosis is to blame for your condition and, if so, what caused it to develop. Once this has been determined, your doctor can recommend a series of treatments based on your current level of fitness, medical history and what caused your condition to develop.

Conservative treatment for scoliosis

Many doctors will begin treatment for scoliosis through a series of conservative methods. These treatments are designed to relieve pain and help correct the structure of the spine through strengthening the core muscles and increasing circulation to the damaged disc in order to heal. While conservative treatment is often effective for degenerative conditions, they take several months before significant pain relief is experienced.

The most common forms of conservative treatment include pain medication, physical therapy and moderate exercise, to name a few. If these treatments do not help you find relief after several months, your doctor may recommend spine surgery.

Surgery for scoliosis

If you are recommended for scoliosis surgery, there are two main options you can consider for your procedure: traditional open back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute St. Louis offers a lower risk of complications and shorter recovery time^ comparatively, though you should consult an orthopedic surgeon and consider getting a second opinion about the surgical treatments that are available for your condition.

To learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery for scoliosis, contact Laser Spine Institute. We can provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.