What is Spinal Scoliosis?

Adult degenerative scoliosis is a condition of the thoracic spine or mid-back. Scoliosis is defined as a curvature in the spine greater than 10 degrees. This curvature may impact a patient’s balance, create pain and weakness and limit motion. Dr. Braxton is adept at diagnosing and treating adult degenerative scoliosis and can provide both conservative and advanced treatment plans to relieve a range of patient challenges.

How Do You Get Spinal Scoliosis?

The exact cause of scoliosis is unknown. Hereditary factors are a cause because a curved spine tends to run in families. Some of the causes of adult degenerative scoliosis may include:

  • Prior undetected congenital abnormalities
  • Idiopathic, or unknown, onset during the adolescent period
  • Disc disease with asymmetric wear
  • Degenerative spine conditions
  • Antalgic gait or non-structural pain
  • Traumatic injury

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Normally, scoliosis of the spine is asymptomatic, meaning the curved spine does not generate symptoms. When scoliosis is not asymptomatic, symptoms can include:

  • Shoulders visibly uneven

  • Uneven waist

  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other

  • One hip higher than the other

  • Chronic muscle fatigue

  • Nerve compression

If a curved spine gets worse the spine can also rotate or twist. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther than on the other side.

How to Know if you Have Scoliosis?

Dr. Braxton will take a complete history and perform a physical exam. Dr. Braxton will get an accurate measurement of the degree of spine curvature. During the exam, he will assess:

  • Balance and walking that is impaired
  • Discomfort standing or sitting
  • Changes in posture
  • Atrophy of muscle, nerve damage or hypertrophy
  • Length of leg discrepancy
  • Favoring or leaning to one side
  • Pronounced protrusion of rib on one side

In severe cases, patients can have a pronounced heart and/or lung problem.

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Does Scoliosis Go Away or Get Worse?

In general, scoliosis patients with a curve of less than 30 degrees are no more apt to experiencing back pain than non-scoliosis patients; patients with a curve greater than 30 degrees are more likely to develop chronic back pain. As the curvature is a structural issue, conservative treatment is recommended to provide stabilizing support to minimize pain and ameliorate further deterioration. Dr. Braxton can determine the right course of treatment needed to manage scoliosis.

Does Scoliosis Require Surgery?

In most patients, non-operative treatment is sufficient to treat adult degenerative scoliosis. For patients that exhibit progressive degeneration over time or symptoms that are unresponsive to conservative treatments, Dr. Braxton will make recommendations that address the spinal curvature. These treatments include:

  • Spinal brace

  • Physical therapy

  • Chiropractic manipulation

What is Scoliosis Surgery?

Dr. Braxton’s skill set includes a number of minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat scoliosis. Generally, scoliosis surgery includes a spinal fusion. The curved vertebrae are fused together to prevent worsening of the scoliosis. Bone grafting material is placed in the spaces between the vertebrae which are typically stabilized by metal rods that are held in place by hooks, wires and screws; as the surgical site heals the bone grows together. Choosing adult scoliosis surgery is a decision that can lead to substantial improvement to quality of life, a return to an active lifestyle and significant spinal movement and balance.

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