What is scoliosis in adults?

Steven Glassman, M.D., orthopedic spine specialist with Norton Leatherman Spine Center, discusses scoliosis in adults, including symptoms and treatments.

You’ve probably heard about scoliosis in kids, but did you know adults can have it too? Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops a curvature. In adults, sometimes that curvature develops in childhood but doesn’t cause issues until adulthood, and sometimes the curvature develops later in life. Steven Glassman, M.D., orthopedic spine specialist with Norton Leatherman Spine Center, discusses how scoliosis is treated in adults, which is usually very different from treating it in children.

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What is scoliosis in adults?

  • Scoliosis is an increasing problem in adults
  • Sometimes adult scoliosis results from a curve that is developed as child that progresses into adulthood
  • Frequently, older adults develop curves that didn’t exist at all when they were children

Scoliosis symptoms in adults

  • In adults, scoliosis is treated based on symptoms
  • You can have a big curve, but if it doesn’t cause problems, it generally isn’t treated
  • Adults may develop significant symptoms from scoliosis, including leg pain, difficulty walking and severe back pain
  • Through work at Norton Leatherman Spine, we now know that what happens in the side view, the bending forward, is the biggest problem and the symptom that’s most difficult to tolerate

Scoliosis treatments for adults

  • For adults with scoliosis and symptoms, we try non-surgical treatments
  • Non-surgical treatments may include water therapy, or therapy in a pool; core strengthening exercises; and exercises that improve balance

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