June 29, 2023

Scoliosis Treatment Options in Adults

scoliosis treatment
Structural scoliosis (as opposed to temporary, nonstructural scoliosis) is a curving and twisting of the spine. It’s diagnosed by exams and imaging that reveal a curvature of 10% or more. 

While many people have mild scoliosis, the condition can get worse over time. One reason is that the joints in the spine naturally degenerate or break down as we age. Symptoms of advancing scoliosis include new or worsening back pain, leg pain, leg numbness or weakness, height loss, and misalignment in the hips and pelvis. 

Can scoliosis be fixed? Yes, there are treatments for scoliosis that your doctor may recommend based on your symptoms. So, you shouldn’t assume that increasing pain and decreasing flexibility and mobility are “just part of getting old.” You can and should seek treatment for scoliosis if it’s adversely affecting your quality of life. 

Structural Scoliosis—Adult Treatment

Some scoliosis cases are mild enough in childhood that doctors don’t recommend treatment. However, if you have the condition and it worsens after you reach adulthood, your doctor may recommend treatment. 

The most common interventions are physical therapy and surgery. 

Scoliosis Physical Therapy Treatment

If you have moderate scoliosis, your doctor may prescribe a combination of observation and core-strengthening exercises. If appropriate, they may have you see a physical therapist for instruction and guidance. 

The exercises strengthen muscles in your abdomen and back to reduce pain and slow the progression of your condition. A physical therapist may also have you do specific stretches to improve or maintain your flexibility. 

In addition, it’s helpful to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and stay active.  

Surgical Scoliosis Treatment

If you have moderate to severe scoliosis and physical therapy or self-guided exercises and stretches don’t improve your condition, your doctor may recommend surgery. This option is avoided if possible because back surgery (like all surgery) can have complications.

However, scoliosis surgery is the best or only way to address symptoms for some adult patients. The most common surgery for adults with scoliosis is spinal fusion. It involves permanently connecting two or more vertebrae (spinal bones) using bone from your body, a donor, or synthetic material along with rods, screws, and wires. 

A Note on Alternative Medicine Treatments for Scoliosis

There is no evidence that popular alternative medicine treatments for scoliosis in adults can correct curvature of the spine. This includes things like soft braces, electrical stimulation of muscles, dietary supplements, and chiropractic manipulation. 

If you’re considering these or other alternative treatments, you should talk with your doctor. One risk of using untested therapies is that they keep you from getting proven treatments, which can allow your condition to worsen.  

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Scoliosis Treatments for Adults

If you have a curve in your spine and feel you need to address it, talk with your Baptist Health doctor about how to fix scoliosis. In collaboration with a neurologist, your physician can assess your current symptoms and prognosis for disease progression and devise a treatment plan. 

Learn More.