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June 21, 2024

Understanding Adult Scoliosis

Scoliosis, a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine, is often associated with adolescents. However, adults can also develop scoliosis, and it can significantly impact their quality of life without proper management. Come with us as we dig into adult scoliosis, the various types, its causes, treatments, even a few physical therapy exercises you can try at home.

Types and causes of Adult Scoliosis

Adult Scoliosis can be classified into four primary types, each classified by the diagnosed cause:

  1. Degenerative scoliosis: This is the most common type in adults and is caused by the degeneration (wear and tear) of the spine’s discs and joints. It typically occurs after the age of 40 and can worsen over time.
  2. Idiopathic scoliosis: While this type is more commonly associated with adolescents, it can also persist into adulthood. Idiopathic scoliosis has no known cause.
  3. Secondary scoliosis: This type is caused by another condition or factor, such as a spinal injury, muscle weakness, or neurological disease.
  4. Kyphoscoliosis: This is a combination of scoliosis and kyphosis, where the spine has both a lateral curvature (scoliosis) and an abnormal outward curvature of the upper back (kyphosis).

Adult-onset scoliosis is a more general term for Adult Scoliosis used to describe any form of scoliosis that develops or is diagnosed in adulthood, encompassing degenerative, idiopathic, and secondary types.

Symptoms of Adult Scoliosis


Symptoms of adult scoliosis can vary in severity, however common signs include:

  • Uneven shoulders or waist
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Back pain or discomfort
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty standing upright or walking for extended periods

Treatment Options for Adult Scoliosis

The primary goal of treatment for adult scoliosis is to relieve pain, improve function, and prevent the progression of the spinal curvature. Options include:

Non-Surgical Treatments:

  • Physical Therapy: Tailored exercises to strengthen the core and improve posture.
  • Bracing: In some cases, a brace may be recommended to support the spine.
  • Medications: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help manage discomfort.

Surgical Treatments:

  • Spinal Fusion: This procedure involves fusing two or more vertebrae to correct the curvature and stabilize the spine.
  • Decompression Surgery: This surgery relieves pressure on spinal nerves caused by the curvature.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Adult Scoliosis

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing adult scoliosis. Below are a few exercises that have proven to be effective for many individuals:

Pelvic Tilts:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the floor.
  • Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat 10-15 times.

Cat-Camel Stretch:

  • Get on your hands and knees.
  • Arch your back towards the ceiling (cat position) and then lower it towards the floor (camel position).
  • Perform this stretch slowly and repeat 10 times.

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise your arms above your head and lean to one side, feeling a stretch along the side of your body.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Birddog PT Exercise for Scoliosis


  • Lie face down and lift your body onto your forearms and toes.
  • Keep your body in a straight line and hold for 20-30 seconds, gradually increasing the duration as your strength improves.

Bird-Dog Exercise:

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward, keeping your back straight.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then switch sides. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.

 If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of adult scoliosis, Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group Spine Center Is here to help! Our specialists ensure each patient’s treatment plan is personalized to their individual needs helping them manage their specific condition and improve their quality of life. Our team is dedicated to getting you back to the activities you love, close to or completely pain-free.

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