Most of us will experience some type of scoliosis after we reach our 60s.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 68 percent of people older than 60 show signs of degenerative, adult onset scoliosis. (Bone density loss is the usual culprit.) And that doesn’t even account for those whose childhood scoliosis continues to progress a degree or two per year.
That’s a lot of people who potentially suffer from adult scoliosis pain.
What is Degenerative Scoliosis?
Chronic pain and loss of functionality are the hallmarks of adult onset scoliosis — also known as degenerative scoliosis. Unlike the most common form of the condition, adolescent or idiopathic scoliosis, this type of spinal curve occurs when the spine’s joints become compacted due to bone loss.
When healthy, these facet joints function like hinges, allowing the spine to bend smoothly. As their protective cartilage becomes worn, however, the joints become irritated and the spine slowly develops a curve.
While degenerative scoliosis causes pain just like adolescent scoliosis, the discomfort stems from the joint inflammation — not the curvature itself. Symptoms include:
- Activity-induced pain that gradually worsens over time
- Intense pain first thing in the morning that improves after you get up but worsens later in the day
- Pain in one or both legs when standing or walking
Because the curve progresses at only 1-2 degrees per year and isn’t typically the source of pain, most treatments center on scoliosis pain relief rather than slowing the curvature — although the right treatment can do both.
How is Adult Scoliosis Pain Treated?
Many people diagnosed with adult onset scoliosis fear they will need to have surgery, but that’s generally not the case. There are plenty of non-surgical treatment options for scoliosis pain in adults. Painkillers aren’t always necessary, either.
The best strategy for treating adult scoliosis pain is a multifaceted one — that is, one that combines a variety of approaches for maximum effect. For starters, weight-bearing exercises are a cornerstone of any scoliosis pain relief plan, as they can reverse adult scoliosis regardless of the cause.
Of course, the pain of inflamed joints can make exercise difficult. Patients who experience this challenge may benefit from whole-body vibration therapy, which improves bone density and strengthens the muscles around the spine.
Other non-surgical scoliosis treatment options include:
- Balancing and isometric exercises
- Automatic Response Training (ART) exercises
- Scoliosis Activity Suit
- Nutritional testing
Research has shown these methods work. In one study, chiropractic rehabilitation helped patients reduce their pain and improve their functioning even up to two years after the treatment.
Because each person is unique, a customized treatment plan is recommended to reduce the curvature, improve functionality and relieve scoliosis pain in adults. It’s also important to address the condition’s underlying cause — bone loss — with nutrient supplements and possibly hormone replacement therapy.
Surgery isn’t the only answer for those with adult onset scoliosis—and it’s far from the best. Contact ScoliSMART to learn more about non-surgical scoliosis treatment.
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