Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis often starts during adolescence. This is why school “screenings” are performed in most states. What many people don’t know is that scoliosis can also start in adulthood. This means that adults can have “adolescent-onset” scoliosis that they grew up with, or “adult-onset” scoliosis.
Adults with “Adolescent-Onset” Scoliosis
While the adolescent with scoliosis is growing the bones grow deform and become asymmetrical in an attempt to adapt to the pressure on the bones of the spine. This change in shape helps decrease the pressure on the bones and discs. However, a 50–year follow-up study on the progression of adolescent scoliosis into adulthood showed that these adults still have more degeneration (arthritis) than people their same age without scoliosis. They also found that they have more severe low back pain than people without scoliosis. 80% of people with adolescent-onset scoliosis are females as compared to an equal distribution of men to women in the case of adult-onset scoliosis.
Adults with “Adult-Onset” Scoliosis
In adults with adult-onset scoliosis the bones have never changed shape due to growing with the curve. So they are under more pressure leading to degeneration of the bones (bone spurs) and discs (intervertebral disc disease). Another study on adults with painful scoliosis showed that adults with the adult-onset type of scoliosis tend to have much more severe pain with more pinched nerve symptoms. Symptoms of pinched nerves were present in only 7% of adults with adolescent-onset scoliosis, compared to 84% in adult- onset scoliosis.
Determining the Type of Scoliosis
The majority of adults that have adolescent-onset scoliosis have known about the curve since they were young. However, many people go undiagnosed until adulthood. In these cases it can be hard to distinguish between the age of onset of the curves. Since there is a difference in the two types with regards to rate of worsening and levels of pain, it is good to try to find out which type it is. One way to distinguish the difference is based on X-rays. Research has shown that scoliosis of adolescent onset is typically larger in size, though pain is generally less severe. The same study also showed that loss of the normal lumbar lordosis (curve form the side) is present with adult-onset curves, and may even be the initialing cause of the scoliosis. So a good set of Xrays that are evaluated by someone who truly understands the difference in the types of scoliosis is absolutely essential to identify which type of scoliosis is present.
Treatment for Adults with Scoliosis
There are many different treatments for painful scoliosis. Medical Doctors prescribe drugs and perform surgeries. Drugs hide symptoms only and come with a vast array of side-effects. Surgery for low back pain is notoriously unsuccessful. Physical therapists perform rehabilitation that has goals to strengthen the spine, provide increased mobility, etc. These are good for the function of the spine, but do nothing for the actual alignment. None of these things can reduce a scoliosis. Only two things have been shown to successfully manage scoliosis non-surgically… scoliosis specific exercises and bracing.
Scoliosis Specific Exercises
At Modern Chiropractic Center in Boise and Nampa we use a combination of proven chiropractic methods as researched in Chiropractic Biophysics technique, as well as SEAS (Specific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis). These methods can work to stabilize worsening curves and even help reduce the size of scoliosis. Carefully designed exercises and stretching are done based on each individual. The extent of pain, degeneration, stiffness, curve size, curve location, etc., all must play a role in developing the unique set of procedures for a patient.
Bracing in Adults
Bracing has historically been thought to be only for the growing adolescent. However, recent research has shown bracing in adults to help with pain associated with the curves. At Modern Chiropractic Center we recommend using the ScoliBrace products. These are completely custom-made using 3-D scanning technology and CAD-designed manufacturing.
Our goal at Modern Chiropractic Center is to provide cutting edge, research-based care so that patients have the best chance of living with less pain, improved posture and a scoliosis that is not worsening over time. Call any of our offices today to schedule a Scoliosis Evaluation.
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