Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that occurs when your spine develops a sideways S- or C-shaped curve of at least 10 degrees. In most cases, spinal curves don’t cause symptoms or discomfort until they reach approximately 25 degrees, and severe curves exceeding 45 degrees often require surgery.
While scoliosis is most common in school-age children, it can develop in adults as well. At Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates in Independence, Ohio, Dr. Keppler and his team can diagnose spinal deformities like scoliosis and help you protect your spine as you age.
There are different forms of scoliosis, but the most common develops in children right before puberty. We don’t understand the exact cause of this type of scoliosis, but it often runs in families. The most common signs of scoliosis include having:
- Uneven shoulders
- An uneven waist
- One hip that’s higher than the other
- One shoulder that seems more prominent than the other
When the curve in your spine worsens, it can cause your ribs on one side to protrude farther than the other. Your spine can even begin to twist or rotate, eventually leading to breathing difficulties and heart and lung damage.
Scoliosis in adults
Approximately 70% of adults over 60 have a curved spine, and at least 20% of these curves are greater than 20 degrees.
Adults can have scoliosis for two primary reasons. Either they had scoliosis as a child that went unnoticed, or they’re experiencing spinal degeneration and osteoarthritis. These conditions cause changes in your spine’s vertebrae, the collection of bones that form your spine. When your vertebrae begin to degenerate, they can lose their symmetry, causing your spine to curve to the left or right.
Common symptoms of scoliosis in adults include:
- Spinal deformity
- A shoulder or hip that’s higher than the other
- The appearance that you’re leaning to one side
When you have scoliosis as an adult, it can also cause one of your legs to become longer than the other and interfere with your ability to walk properly.
Diagnosing scoliosis in adults
Dr. Keppler and his team can diagnose scoliosis during a physical that includes discussing your personal and family medical histories. In addition to your exam, they might also conduct neurological tests to assess additional symptoms, such as:
- Pain, numbness, and tingling
- Motor function and extremity sensation
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction
In many cases, the team also orders a series of X-rays while you’re standing in different positions to capture your spine and assess its flexibility.
Managing scoliosis in adults
Dr. Kepler and his team work closely with you to develop the most effective scoliosis treatment plan based on your spinal curve and your symptoms. Most adults with scoliosis respond well to conservative treatments, like moist heat, medications, physical therapy, and exercise. Throughout this process, your provider also monitors you closely and makes recommendations to prevent your condition from worsening.
For extreme spinal deformities or persistent pain in adults, the team might suggest surgical treatment to stabilize your spine.
For more information on diagnosing and managing scoliosis as an adult, call Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates or schedule an appointment online today.