Degenerative Scoliosis

Degenerative scoliosis is abnormal side-to-side curvatures of the spine due to wear and tear in the back. When the wear and tear is not symmetrical between right and left, the spine will be tilting on one side. This usually occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back). As the degenerative process becomes more severe, the spine will be more tilting to one side. Initially, the upper part of the spine can compensate the curve in the lumbar spine. The asymmetry of the body may not be apparent. As the scoliosis becomes worse beyond the ability to compensate, the body will start to tilt to one side. The body asymmetry becomes more and more apparent.

Apart from back pain, people with degenerative scoliosis may experience the symptoms of spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Sometimes, the scoliosis is also accompanied by kyphosis (hunched back) especially in elderly. This becomes kyphoscoliosis which is a more complex deformity in the spine. The treatment depends on the severity of the deformity. Mild deformity is treated with physiotherapy and strengthening of core muscles to slow down the wear and tear process. Severe degenerative scoliosis may require surgery to correct the deformity.

Author: Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho), Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore