With expert help, most people who have scoliosis do well without surgery.
All are trained in helping people with scoliosis manage pain and maximize function.
If you do need spine surgery, our team is the most experienced in the state. We offer a range of surgical options and will customize a plan that meets your needs.
Scoliosis types and symptoms
Scoliosis is a condition where the spine, or backbone, has an abnormal sideways curve of more than 10 degrees.
Normally, your spine has a slight natural curve.
When you have scoliosis, your spine bends into a sharper C or S shape. Scoliosis is diagnosed most often in children. UI Stead Family Children's Hospital offers pediatric scoliosis care.
Types of scoliosis
In adults, scoliosis can take one of two forms:
- Idiopathic adult scoliosis, or scoliosis without a known cause, is most common. It's present during adolescent years and can become worse during adulthood.
- Degenerative adult scoliosis begins after age 40 and is caused by a combination of age and deterioration of the spine.
Less frequent causes of scoliosis include:
- Osteoporosis (most common in older people, especially women)
- Previous fractures of the spine
- Slipped vertebrae (spondylolisthesis)
- Infections and tumors of the spine
Symptoms can include:
- Backache or lower back pain
- A tired feeling in your middle back after sitting or standing a long time
- Uneven hips or shoulders (i.e., one shoulder higher than the other)
- Visible curving of your spine to one side
Scoliosis treatment from UI Health Care
To determine how much your spine is curved, your physician will do a physical exam. They'll also take X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to visualize the curve.
Treatment options for scoliosis vary depending on several factors, including:
- Your age
- The cause of your scoliosis
- Where the curve is located on your spine
- How big the curve is (usually measured in degrees). Mild curvature is 20 degrees or less and moderate is up to 40 degrees. If your curve is more than 45 degrees, it might require more aggressive treatment.
- Whether your scoliosis is causing severe pain or other debilitating symptoms
Nonsurgical scoliosis treatment
Most scoliosis is treated without surgery. Your specialist might recommend:
- Observation to see whether the curve of your spine is getting worse
- Spine rehabilitation to help you stretch and strengthen your back muscles and stabilize your spine
- Pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen or naproxen)
- A back brace to help with pain, improve your posture, stabilize the curve, and potentially reduce the curve slightly
A curve that keeps getting worse can cause other problems in addition to back pain. You could experience nerve pain and issues with your heart, lungs, bowel, and bladder.
If you don't respond to nonsurgical treatments and your spinal curve is 50 degrees or more, your doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery. This procedure will stabilize your spine and stop the curve from getting worse.
UI Health Care orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons are highly skilled in spinal fusion surgery. It can often be performed in a minimally invasive way, which means less pain and a faster recovery for you.