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Can Adults Develop Scoliosis?

There’s a good reason schools screen children for scoliosis. This spinal deformity is most common among adolescents, especially children between the ages of 10 and 15. However, scoliosis isn’t found only in kids. Many adults suffer from a sideways curvature of the spine without even knowing it.

X-ray image of adult patient with severe spine curvature

Dr. Branko Skovrlj, the founder of NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute, is world-renowned for his contributions to treating spinal deformities. He and his expert medical team perform cutting-edge procedures to help patients relieve symptoms of scoliosis, including adults, at locations in Paramus, Woodbridge, Toms River, Jersey City, and Holmdel, NJ. Here, we discuss the signs and symptoms most commonly seen in adult scoliosis patients, as well as the importance of seeing a spine specialist.

What Is Adult Scoliosis?

The spine forms a natural S-shaped curve that can be seen when looked at from the side. This curvature, which is called lordosis, allows for an even distribution of weight and flexibility of movement. Scoliosis refers to any abnormal curvature or a curve of more than 10 degrees. When the spine abnormality develops after complete skeletal growth, it’s considered adult scoliosis. Adult scoliosis research suggests that one in every three adults between the ages of 40 and 90 may be living with scoliosis and not know it.

Scoliosis Symptoms

In most cases of adult scoliosis, patients undergo minimal pain, making it difficult to detect the spinal deformity in its early stages. If the condition progresses, patients most commonly experience the following symptoms:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that protrudes more than the other
  • Difficulty walking or standing upright
  • The position of the head appears off-centered
  • Noticeable lean favoring one side or the other
  • Stiff spine
  • Uneven waist or difference in hip height
  • Fatigue due to muscle strain
  • The difference in arm length when hanging beside the body

Most adult scoliosis cases cause the spine to rotate or twist in addition to curving side to side. This can cause one side of the rib cage to jut forward. When the spine pushes on the rib cage, patients can experience chest pain and shortness of breath. Additionally, adult scoliosis can cause back pain due to pressure on the spinal cord.

Can Other Health Conditions Cause Onset Scoliosis?

Adult scoliosis can be caused by several factors, including other health conditions. The most common type of scoliosis found in adult patients is degenerative (spine curves as you age).

Degenerative Scoliosis

As a person ages, degeneration of joints and discs in the spine occurs slowly over time. The degeneration can cause a sideways curve in the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater. While the exact cause of degenerative scoliosis is unclear, the condition progresses with daily wear and tear and repetitive activities common with aging.

Adult scoliosis also can be caused by other health conditions, such as:

  • Neuromuscular conditions, including cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Injuries or infections of the spine
  • Spinal cord abnormalities
  • Previous surgeries or radiation treatment for spinal tumors

What Happens If Scoliosis Is Left Untreated?

In many cases of adult scoliosis, symptoms are mild and may not need treatment. However, if left unaddressed, the condition can progress and worsen over time. Moderate to severe cases of adult scoliosis can lead to pain, as well as potential heart and lung damage. These progressed symptoms can impact a patient’s quality of life.

In addition, as the spinal deformity worsens, noticeable symptoms such as uneven hips, protruding ribs, and body leaning become more prominent. These changes can cause adults with scoliosis to become self-conscious about their appearance. For these reasons, seeing a spine specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

Treatment Options for Adult Scoliosis

When treating adult scoliosis, the goal is to stop the progression of the curve, prevent further deformity, and manage symptoms. Most scoliosis cases in adult patients can be managed through conservative treatment methods. Non-surgical approaches include:

  • Physical therapy (stretching and strengthening exercises)
  • Improve posture
  • Back braces
  • Medication

Surgical measures generally are reserved for patients who experience severe symptoms that are impeding quality of life. Spine specialists typically recommend surgery to treat adult scoliosis only when the patient has exhausted all other treatment methods. Surgical procedures used to treat adult scoliosis can include:

Find Comprehensive Spinal Care at NU-Spine

Adults in New Jersey and beyond experiencing scoliosis symptoms will find professional and personalized care at NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute. Dr. Skovrlj is an award-winning neurosurgeon and is regarded as one of the top spine specialists in the Garden State. He is one of the few doctors focusing solely on spine treatments and addressing spinal abnormalities with minimally invasive surgery.

Patients under the care of Dr. Skovrlj and his medical team will receive thorough examinations for an accurate diagnosis. Once they have determined a patient’s condition and the severity, Dr. Skovrlj will recommend treatment options in the patient’s best interest.

Begin your journey to wellness and transform your life with a touch of care! Experience the cutting-edge in minimally invasive spine treatments at NU-Spine. Don’t wait for relief; schedule your appointment with our spine experts today and take the first step towards a pain-free future.

Start Your Path to Relief: Contact Us Today!
Spine Center Locations

1. Paramus
37 W Century Road Suite 105A
Paramus, NJ 07652

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3. Woodbridge
573 Amboy Ave.
Woodbridge Township,
NJ 07095

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5. Toms River
1901 Hooper Ave. #B
Toms River, NJ 08753

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7. Hainesport
300 Creek Crossing Blvd,
Suite 307 Hainesport, NJ 08036

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2. Jersey City
631 Grand Street, Suite 2-100
Jersey City, NJ 07304

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4. Holmdel/Bell Works
101 Crawfords Corner Rd.
Suite 1116-B
Holmdel, NJ 07733

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6. Freehold
1000 West Main Street
Suite 201
Freehold, NJ 07728

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