Can Adults Develop Scoliosis?

Chiropractic Midtown NYC Woman Looking at Spine

If you’ve recently noticed that your shoulders don’t look even when you look in the mirror, it may be because of adult scoliosis.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, causing it to form an “S” shape. Any part of the spine can be affected, but typical cases involve the lower back and mid-chest areas. The condition is fairly rare, affecting about 2% of all children and adults. It’s most frequently seen in teenage girls.

What are the symptoms of adult scoliosis?

Tissue and joint deterioration in your spine can cause adult scoliosis and can result in the following symptoms:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Uneven hips
  • Clothes that don’t fit around the chest and waist
  • Sharp pain in the lumbar region when moving from sitting to standing
  • Pain that moves from the lumbar region into the leg
  • Tingling or numbness extending into the leg
  • Pain when walking
  • Dull pain
  • Stiffness in the lower back

Interestingly, your pain doesn’t come from the “S” curve but from the degeneration itself.

What causes adult scoliosis?

Adults can develop scoliosis, but if you’ve recently been diagnosed, you could actually have had it since adolescence. As you age, symptoms may appear. Alternatively, you could have developed it as a result of aging. As you get older, two parts of your spine may degenerate.

Aging sometimes produces deterioration in your spinal discs, which are the pads between your vertebrae, or bones in your spine. Think of the discs as tiny pillows between each bone. If discs are degenerating, the pillows can bulge out of place and cause bone spurs.

Bone spurs can cause the spinal canal to narrow and lead to a very painful condition called spinal stenosis. Or the disc can rupture, leaking fluid and causing pain in your arm, leg, or back. In this case, the disc has herniated.

Facet joints are akin to door hinges — they allow easy movement. These spinal joints enable you to twist your body from side to side and bend down. If your discs are degenerating, they can put pressure on the cartilage in your facet joints, causing the cartilage to wear away and the joint to deteriorate.

If your discs and facet joints are deteriorating, the spine may gradually become asymmetrical over a period of years.

Your genes may be the cause of the spinal degeneration that has led to your scoliosis, but not all people with the gene variation will develop the condition. Researchers are looking into factors other than genetics that may cause scoliosis. If degenerative discs are potentially the cause of your scoliosis, following are conditions other than normal aging that exacerbate the risk for deteriorating discs:

  • Obesity
  • Physical work involving bending or lifting/carrying heavy loads
  • Smoking
  • Trauma from an injury

Call or book an appointment online with Empire Sports & Spine if you have any of the symptoms of scoliosis or degenerative disc disease. Help is but a phone call away.


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