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Degenerative Scoliosis

What is degenerative scoliosis?

Refers to two types of individuals. The adult who has pre-existing scoliosis will show signs of wear and tear or osteoarthritis (can happen to anyone as we age) - but because of the deformity, their spine starts to collapse and their curve can progress. The other type of person has no scoliosis to start with, but as he or she ages, the spine starts to show signs of wear and tear and it collapses asymmetrically. These individuals actually develop scoliosis later in life, even though they didn't have a pre-existing condition.

Degenerative Adult Scoliosis usually begins as low back pain. While there may also be a deformity that causes the back to look abnormal, usually pain is what motivates patients to seek treatment. The pain is probably not coming from the curve, but rather from the degeneration occurring in the spine.

A combination of the degeneration of the spine and Scoliosis deformity may cause pressure on nerves and possibly even the spinal cord. This can lead to weakness, numbness, tingling and pain in the lower extremities. In severe cases, pressure on the spinal cord may cause loss of coordination in the muscles of the legs, making it difficult to walk normally.

The degeneration and the Scoliosis may have caused a condition called spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis results from spinal degeneration that has led to the growth of bone spurs. Eventually the spurs take up space in the spinal canal, causing it to become smaller. This leads to bone pressing on the spinal cord and its nerve roots. The lack of space lessens the nerves' supply of blood and oxygen, which can lead to numbness and pain in both legs.

Treatment commonly includes medication, exercise, and bracing to support the spine.