Adult Scoliosis and Quality of Life

Scoliosis has been estimated to affect up to 68% of the population of 60. It is frequently associated with a reduced quality of life. Some adults that live with scoliosis were diagnosed at a much younger age. Others are diagnosed for the first time with a new scoliosis. This is called ‘de novo scoliosis’. The impact of scoliosis in adults is correlated with the frontal curve (what you see from the front or back view) as well as the sagittal view (what you see from the side view). Too often the importance of the side view is forgotten. 

Risk of Scoliosis Progression in Adults

The Cobb angle, measured in the frontal plane, is associated with risk of curve progression. Curves under 30 degrees in adulthood tend not to progress. However there are exceptions to this rule. Curves over 30 degrees have a higher risk of progression. There is a very high risk of curve progression if the curve is over 50 degrees. 

Quality of Life in Adults with Scoliosis

When curves progress to over 70 degrees there is an increased risk of respiratory restrictive syndromes. However it is the sagittal profile that is predictive of back pain and disability. The evaluation of the sagittal profile has become an important part of the analysis both for surgical and conservative treatment approaches. This means you can have adults with small scoliosis curves that are in more pain than some adults with larger curves, and vice versa. 

Treatment of Adults with Scoliosis

Chronic low back pain in adults with scoliosis can respond positive to Schroth therapy. If this does not succeed then surgery is often an option chosen by patients. Unfortunately surgery can have frequent complications, as with many surgeries. It is also not appropriate for people with other health problems. Of course, some people do not want surgery. Bracing for adults with scoliosis is an option for some. It is best to discuss these options with your treating professional. 

It is possible for some adults to do the ‘try and see’ approach when it comes to therapy and perhaps even bracing. This is a better option for some adults rather than ‘wait and see’. Trying Schroth therapy has the advantages of giving people strategies to possibly :

  • strengthen their posture
  • better manage and sometimes reduce their pain
  • improve their function
  • prevent further progression of the curve. 

Surgery is not reversible so a ‘try and see’ method may be feasible for some adults living with scoliosis. 

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