by Dr Juan Du Plessis – Chiropractor, ScoliCare Scoliosis Bracing & Rehabilitation Clinician

Have you ever wondered if older people get scoliosis?

When we think of scoliosis, most people imagine it to be something that only adolescent girls can suffer from. There are two reasons for this. The first is that due to rapid growth in teenage years, scoliosis is often first detected during this time. The second reason is that scoliosis is much more likely to develop in teenage girls than boys.

Scoliosis can however also develop in adults.

There are 2 major types of adult scoliosis.  Pre-existing, which means the scoliosis was present when the person was younger and is only diagnosed in adulthood.  The scoliosis may have started when they were an infant, a juvenile, or an adolescent but then remained unnoticed and untreated.

Then there is a scoliosis that develops due to “wear and tear” or degeneration of the spine. The scoliosis sufferer has had a straight spine until a certain point when degeneration of the bones, joints or cartilage discs caused the onset of what is called a “De Novo Scoliosis”. This usually occurs after the age of 40, and generally happens due to a weakening of the spine.

For women, adult scoliosis often worsens around the time of menopause as the bones soften and the scoliosis is able to develop or significantly worsen.

The main issues when a scoliosis develops or worsens in adulthood are that the person’s spine becomes unbalanced. They may develop arthritis in the spine and can develop a host of symptoms from back pain to leg pain and often fatigue. They often become stooped forward, which has a large impact on the stability of their spine and increases the chance of the condition worsening.

Although some forms of adult scoliosis can be progressive, the main complaint is usually lower back pain. Often this pain is severe and little relief has been found from usual the medical and complementary care options.

Specialised conservative treatments have been developed to treat adult scoliosis. The goals of non-surgical treatment are usually to reduce pain, rather than correct the spinal curvature, and to increase strength, flexiblity and the range of motion which help supports the spine and reduce future pain.

Strengthening the muscles and improving spinal balance may be achieved through a program of scoliosis specific exercises. Other treatments can include wear of a customised brace, dynamic or rigid,  to support the spine. A final resort in severe cases might even be surgical intervention. Often after surgery has been performed a brace is then prescribed to hold the spine in the new post-operative position and to alleviate the pain.

If you are suffering from adult scoliosis and looking for treatment options, you might benefit from a clinical assessment, please contact us

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