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Scoliosis In Adults

Topic Overview

Scoliosis is a problem with the curve in your spine. Many people have some curve in their spine. But a few people have spines that make a large curve from side to side in the shape of the letter "S" or the letter "C." If this curve is severe, it can cause pain and make breathing difficult.

What causes scoliosis?

In adults, scoliosis may result from changes in the spine due to aging (degenerative changes). It may also be caused by a disease or condition, including:

What are the symptoms?

Adults who have scoliosis may or may not have back pain. In most cases where back pain is present, it is hard to know if scoliosis is the cause. But if scoliosis in an adult gets worse and becomes severe, it can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

The doctor will check to see if your back or ribs are even. If the doctor finds that one side is higher than the other, you may need an X-ray so the spinal curve can be measured.

How is it treated?

Mild cases of scoliosis usually do not need treatment.

Some people may use nonprescription medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen to treat back pain. While these medicines may relieve symptoms of back pain for a short time, they do not heal scoliosis or back injuries. And they don't stop the pain from coming back.

Along with medicine, other steps that help to maintain or promote good health, such as regular exercise and proper back care, may help relieve back pain for some adults.

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you learn:

  • Ways to move and rest that will help relieve pain.
  • Strength exercises, to help support your joints and decrease fatigue.
  • Flexibility exercises, including deep breathing to help expand your chest.
  • Ways to stay active without increasing your symptoms.

If the pain makes it hard to do your daily activities, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Adults who have scoliosis because of aging (degenerative scoliosis) are more likely than children to have significant problems after surgery. Even though surgery usually reduces their pain, other complications, such as wound infections, may occur.

Related Information

Credits

Current as ofSeptember 20, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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