Scoliosis In Adults

What is Scoliosis

When looking at the spine from behind, it usually descends in a straight line from the base of the skull to the pelvis.  With scoliosis, the spine curves to the side(s) into a C shape or a reverse S shape.  Scoliosis is present when the spine has one or more curves greater than 10° when measured on an x-ray.

Scoliosis is 3-dimensional. Not only is the spine curving it’s also rotating.  This rotation may affect the shoulder girdle, rib cage, and pelvis.

Signs of Scoliosis in Adults

Sometimes people with scoliosis have the following signs:

  • One shoulder looks higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade appears larger or pokes out more in the back body
  • One hip looks higher than the other
  • The pelvis shifts to one side
  • One side of the back may have a prominence, sometimes called a rib hump
  • Head is not centered over the body
  • Clothes hang unevenly on the body
Signs of Scoliosis

What Causes Scoliosis in Adults

Scoliosis is most frequently diagnosed in children and teenagers.  However, adults may receive a diagnosis of scoliosis too.  This usually happens when a curve that existed in youth progresses.  Or when  a de novo (newly diagnosed condition) presents itself as a result of degenerative changes in the spine, osteoporosis, injury, or infection.  The prevalence of scoliosis for those over 60 ranges up to 68%. [1]

How Menopause Affects Scoliosis

How Does Menopause Affect Scoliosis

Menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 for most women.  During menopause, the drop of estrogen leads to more bone resorption than formation, which may result in osteoporosis. In other words, the bones break down faster than they rebuild.  This bone mineral loss can cause degeneration of the spine that results in progression of scoliosis or causes a new scoliosis.  Asymmetric loading, coupled with this degeneration, can trigger a cycle enhancing curve progression.

Adult Scoliosis

Symptoms of Scoliosis in Adults

The most common symptom of scoliosis in adults is pain.  Pain associated with scoliosis is multifactorial.  The pain may result from the curve itself, compression of nerves, or muscle fatigue due to the muscles on the convex side of the curve working harder and fatiguing quicker. Other symptoms of scoliosis in adults include a visible bulge on one side in the back body, the trunk leaning to one side, difficulties with balance, loss of height, shortness of breath or quick fatigue, and premature feelings of fullness in the stomach.

Scoliosis Diagnosis

X-rays can confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis and reveal the severity of the spinal curvature. Repeated radiation exposure may become a concern because some people need multiple X-rays over a lifetime to monitor curve progression.  Certain imaging systems, such as the EOS imaging, use lower doses of radiation to create a 3D model of the spine.

Treatment for Scoliosis

Many people experience significant pain relief from non-operative measures such as increasing core muscle strength, postural training, activity modification, physio-therapy scoliosis specific exercise [2] (most commonly available in the United States is Schroth therapy [3]), pain medications, and steroidal injections.

Doctors may recommend spinal fusion surgery for select patients.

Working with Wellness In Motion

Working with adults who have scoliosis is one of the things we do best at Wellness In Motion through Pilates, yoga, and strength training.  First and foremost, we help you understand your individual scoliosis curve pattern and some things about scoliosis in general.  We love to educate!  Understanding your individual curve pattern is the foundation for working on postural alignment and knowing how to adjust out of your scoliosis pattern.

We also focus on increasing core muscle strength and postural training. Increasing core muscle strength helps stabilize the spine.  Postural training helps resist gravity and compression.  This work assists in breaking the asymmetric loading pattern.

And finally, we love to work on functional strength and brainstorm lifestyle ideas so that you can keep doing the things you love with the people you love.

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