Also known as adult onset scoliosis, degenerative scoliosis is a term used to describe a curvature of the spine caused by the degeneration of the facet joints. Facet joints link the vertebrae together and form a hinge between them, giving the spine flexibility. This condition occurs in up to 68 percent of adults over the age of 65.
Degenerative scoliosis is caused by the degenerative facet joints placing pressure on the overall spine, resulting in an otherwise normal spine curving to one side.
Symptoms of Degenerative Scoliosis
Patients with degenerative scoliosis may experience symptoms, including:
- Gradual pain that worsens over time and is exacerbated by activity
- Pain in one or both legs when walking/standing
- Pain that tends to be worse in the morning and night
- Sensation where sitting feels better than walking or standing
Any pain associated with this condition is the result of inflammation of the cartilage that protects the facet joints and is not due to the curvature of the spine itself. Pain may also be associated with the spinal stenosis that is typically also present.
How Is Degenerative Scoliosis Diagnosed?
To effectively diagnose this condition, Dr. LaRocca will conduct a physical exam after taking a detailed medical history. During the exam, flexibility and any rib deformity will be measured. In addition, testing for neurological deficits may also be conducted to assess sensation, reflexes and strength of muscles.
Following the exam, additional testing may be recommended, including:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan for a more detailed look of the vertebrae
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to assess the spinal cord
- X-ray to confirm a diagnosis of scoliosis and to assess the severity of the curving
What Treatment Options Are Available for Degenerative Scoliosis?
With years of experience and training, Dr. Sandro LaRocca and the specialized team at New Jersey Neck & Back Institute (NJNBI) create a customized treatment plan for patients with treatment options, including:
- Epidural or facet injections with anti-inflammatories or numbing agents
- Oral pain relievers, such as anti-inflammatory medications or ibuprofen
- Physical therapy routine to strengthen muscles and keep tissues/joints supple
- Recommendations for weight loss
- Scoliosis fusion surgery
- Spinal decompression surgery