Scoliosis in Adults: How to Identify and Treat It

By: Dr. Walter Salubro, Chiropractor in Vaughan, ON

Adult scoliosis is a condition that many people are unaware of and it can be a source of back pain and disability. The word “scoliosis” refers to a sideways curvature of the spine and rib cage. This often causes pain in the back, neck, ribs, hips or shoulders. It’s important to seek care if you suspect that you have adult scoliosis because it has a risk of progressing even as an adult.-This article will go over some of the basics about adult scoliosis.

How do I know if I have it?

Adult onset scoliosis is also called adult de novo scoliosis. This means that the adult patient is not diagnosed with scoliosis as a child, but rather in adulthood. The prevalence of scoliosis in an adult under the age of 60 is 13% (1). But the prevalence of scoliosis in an adult 65 and over is 36% (1). This means that scoliosis has been found to be more prevalent in adults than in children (which is 2 to 4%). The only way to diagnose a scoliosis is with an xray. It is possible an adult will not even know they have a scoliosis until they get a spine xray. Spinal xrays may be taken after a visit to a medical doctor or a chiropractor because of complaints of back pain.

What is the main symptom of adult scoliosis?

Some of the most common symptoms of adult scoliosis are back pain and neck pain. Some other symptoms that may be related to this condition are pain in the legs or numbness and tingling.

Why does this matter as an adult, when other conditions may be more common in adults?

Adults with scoliosis are also at a greater risk for developing degenerative disc disease and degenerative arthritis throughout their spine. When the degeneration progresses, the risk for instabilities in the spine increases. This can cause abnormal spinal motion and likely more pain. The risk of progression, even for an adult, is a curve increase of 2 to 3% per year.

Do I need treatment for adult scoliosis?

In adults, treatment for scoliosis is aimed at stabilizing the spine, preventing the progression of the curve, improving posture, decreasing pain, and improving quality of life. Another goal would be to prevent surgery, which may be required for curves over 60 degrees.

What are the treatments for adult scoliosis?

Treatments may include chiropractic care, physiotherapy, and exercises. These forms of treatment may help with improving mobility, increasing strength, increasing flexibility, decreasing pain, and improving posture. Another treatment option is a scoliosis brace. A scoliosis brace for an adult is a viable option as it may help with decreasing the progression of the curve, stability of the spine, improving posture, and improving overall quality of life.

Adult scoliosis can be a serious condition that affects your mobility and quality of life. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to see the doctor for an assessment. There may also be lifestyle changes or treatments that can help with adult scoliosis pain such as physical therapy, chiropractic, or bracing. Do not wait until things get worse before seeking treatment! Call us if you have any questions about your spine health at all – we’re here to help!

1. McAviney, Jeb, et al. The prevalence of adult de novo scoliosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Spine J. 2020 Dec;29(12):2960-2969.