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Adult Scoliosis

Adult Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side, when looking at it from the front.

The spine has some natural curves when looking at it from the side. These natural curves help with weight-bearing, balance and shock absorption.

Although it is a complex three-dimensional deformity, on an X-ray, viewed from the rear, the spine of an individual with scoliosis may look more like an “S” or a “C” than a straight line affecting the thoracic and lumbar spinal regions.

This condition may be present during adolescence or as an adult.

Adult scoliosis is commonly due to degeneration of the joints of the spine. The causes of adolescent scoliosis are not completely known.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of scoliosis may include uneven shoulders and/or hip and a prominence of one shoulder blade over the other and protruding ribs. Adult scoliosis can cause back pain and leg pain.


Adult scoliosis is often diagnosed with x-rays taken during investigations for back or leg pain.

Scoliosis may also be diagnosed when an x-ray is taken for an unrelated issue and the radiographer notices the scoliosis on the films.

Treatment for adult scoliosis is generally based on the severity of pain and functional limits. Because of the misalignment of the spine, pain might arise from the discs, facet joints, sacroiliac joints or nerve root compression. The pain from these conditions is managed by physical therapy, medication, facet injections, sacroiliac injections or epidural steroid injections.

If pain persists or physical function is significantly limited, surgery may be considered. Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) combined with Pedicle Screws and rods is used to re-align the spine. Sometimes Anterior Lumbar Fusion (ALIF) is done to create a 360 degree fusion (fusing the front and back portions of the spine).

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