Degenerative Scoliosis

A Few Facts About Degenerative Scoliosis

Degenerative scoliosis is not a particularly well-known disorder, though more cases seem to be reported with each passing year. If you are unfamiliar with the term, and most are, scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine for whatever reason, and degenerative scoliosis is a curvature of the spine due to degenerating joints in the spine, specifically the facet joints, which result in an eventual bending and curvature of the spine.

While degenerative scoliosis can affect any part of the spine, it most often occurs in the lumbar spine, the lower back. The primary reason for the disorder being more commonly reported than in the past seems to be primarily due to the fact that people are living longer. While degenerative scoliosis is not necessarily a direct result of aging, it does tend to occur more often in older people, and the more older people there are, because we are living longer, the more cases will be reported.

When Pain Is Involved - Degenerative scoliosis is not always a painful disorder, although it can be, as the degeneration of the joints can lead to an arthritic condition which can cause pain. Most back pain is due to muscular strain, and not due to a problem with the vertebrae or the spine itself, so the presence of back pain doesn’t necessarily point to degenerative scoliosis, but most often to some other disorder.

When back pain is the result of degenerative scoliosis there are a few telltale signs that differentiate it from other possible causes. Back pain is often worse in the morning upon first arising, then gradually diminishes and may even go away completely as the person become involved in the activities of the day. Later in the day the pain tends to return, especially when the person is standing or walking. Sitting down usually offers relief, as the pressure is removed from the facet joints, the source of the pain.

Medications And Therapy Are Useful - Since arthritis in the facet joints is the main cause of pain, relief is often obtained through medication, especially pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These medications only address the symptoms, and do not treat the scoliosis itself. Physical therapy, including stretching, can also bring relief, especially when the stretching is done in water and the effect of gravity is lessened.

While medications and therapy, and even the occasional use of braces, usually offer only temporary relief from the symptoms of degenerative scoliosis, such measures should not be ignored, and are very important, as the condition itself is not curable and an emphasis needs to be placed on managing the pain and attempting to slow down the progression of the disorder.

Surgery Can Help - While degenerative scoliosis is not curable as joint degeneration is an irreversible process, surgery in some instances can be helpful. In such cases surgery usually consists of decompressing and then fusing the affected part of the spine. A spine that has been fused will of course no longer experience progressive curvature. In some cases of course the treatment may not leave the patient in much better condition than before, but at least the progressive degenerating process has been halted,


A Very Slow Process - Fortunately, degenerative scoliosis is a slow process, very slow in fact, and it is only in a few cases where the condition reaches a point where surgery is called for. Most of those having the disorder manage to get by with simply managing the pain, if indeed they experience any pain at all. Degenerative scoliosis is one of those disorders that many of us are apt to have to some degree if we live long enough, but for the most part we will remain totally unaware of it, and never really have a problem with it.