Idiopathic scoliosis is when a person has scoliosis and the cause is unknown (idiopathic). It’s categorized as infantile, juvenile or adolescent depending on the age at which it is first diagnosed. Adult idiopathic scoliosis is when the disease has continued into adulthood. The good news is, once the disease is diagnosed, there are effective ways exist to treat it.
Adults with idiopathic scoliosis have more symptoms than teens. They may lean forward to try to open up space for their nerves or because they’ve lost their natural curve in their low back. Symptoms may include low back pain and stiffness, numbness, and pain shooting down the legs.
Symptoms in adults are usually mild so treatment includes over-the-counter pain relievers, exercises to strengthen the core muscles and back, and to improve flexibility. For persistent pain, epidurals or nerve block injections may be used.
If non-surgical options don’t work, surgery may be necessary for patients with disabling back and/or leg pain, and whose daily activities have become very restricted.
Surgical procedures include:
- Microdecompression: A small incision is made and a microscopic assists the surgeon in guiding tools to the site to relieve pressure on the nerves.
- Surgical stabilization uses hooks or screws and metal rods to stabilize the spine and allow it to fuse in a corrected position.
- Fusion uses the patient's bone or bone substitutes to fix the spine into a straighter position.
- Osteotomy is when spinal segments are cut and realigned.
Vertebral column resection removes entire vertebral sections then the the spine is realigned.