What Is Adult Scoliosis?
A certain degree of curvature is normal in the human spine. When you look at your body from the side, you can see the gentle inward and outward curves of the neck, upper back and lower back, which are necessary for keeping the body properly balanced and aligned over the pelvis. But when viewed from the back, the vertebrae of a healthy spine should form a straight line.
In someone with scoliosis, the spine looks more like an “S” or a “C” than an “I”. The vertebrae involved in the curve also may rotate to some degree, which can further contribute to the appearance of an uneven waist or shoulders.
There are several warning signs that may signal the development of adult scoliosis. They include:
- Shoulders at different heights; one shoulder blade more prominent than the other
- Head is not centered directly above the pelvis
- Appearance of a raised, prominent hip
- Rib cages are at different heights
- Uneven waist
- Leaning of entire body to one side
- Clothing no longer seems to “hang right” on the body; hemlines of shirts, skirts and pants may appear longer on one side than the other
There are a variety of reasons why scoliosis may develop in adults. Curvature in the mature spine may be:
- Secondary – Developed in response to other spinal conditions that affect spinal alignment and balance, such as osteoporosis or degenerative disc disease. Scoliosis that develops as a result of spinal degeneration typically is called degenerative adult scoliosis.
- Idiopathic – Resulting from no specific cause.
- Congenital – Caused by a condition present at birth but previously undetected
- Paralytic – The result of paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury. When the muscles surrounding the spine no longer work, the vertebrae of the spine may become unbalanced.
- Myopathic – Similar to paralytic curvature, in that the muscles no longer work properly, but as a result of a muscular or neuromuscular disease, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.