All about Degenerative Scoliosis

Degenerative scoliosis is a condition resulting from wear and tear on the joints and discs of the spine. The condition is also the most common type of scoliosis occurring in adults. It usually affects the (lumbar) lower spine.

Signs and Symptoms

Degenerative scoliosis may show no symptoms at all! Sometimes, patients have mild complaints. In some cases, they may also be sternly disabled. Here is a list of some of the symptoms Degenerative Scoliosis may cause:

  • Back pain that goes worse with standing
  • Pain similar to electric shock in one or both legs
  • Lying down will relieve back pain
  • Numbness in one or both legs
  • A sense of weakness in one or both legs

Symptoms for degenerative scoliosis show up very gradually. The pain might get worse in the morning. Thereafter, the symptom gets better with activities through the day. It gets worse again by the end of the day.

Tests and Diagnosis

The first step towards diagnosis of this condition is a complete medical history combined with a physical examination. The Patient may be asked some questions, including the location of pain, how it feels, and what makes it better or worse. Backbone, hips, and shoulders of the patient are checked by making the patient stand straight, bend on either side or bend forward.

Tests and diagnosis will include the following procedures:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging
  • Computed tomography with myelogram (myelo-CT)

Treatment Options

Treatment for degenerative scoliosis may depend on several factors. The doctor will decide the best treatment for each patient according to the situation that exists.

Non-Surgical Treatment

These options include stretching and strengthening exercises, physical therapy, or even pain management.


Surgery is recommended where degenerative scoliosis has to lead to spinal stenosis, Spinal stenosis is a condition characterized by narrowing of the spinal canal. This may lead to pressure on the spinal cord. Here, spinal stenosis is a result of the overgrowth of the bone (bone spurs). The surgeon will perform a surgery for making enough space for the nerve roots. This surgery is known as laminectomy (removal of laminae covering the spinal canal). The surgery will allow ample space to function well. A spinal fusion may also be performed in some cases to impart stability to the spinal column post-surgery. The surgery involves placing a bone graft and then allowing it to fuse with the existing bone.

Is Degenerative Scoliosis Serious?

In the event, degenerative scoliosis leads to impinged nerve root causes or spinal cord through a  narrow spinal canal or severe spinal bending of the spine, patients may suffer from nerve function disorder. The condition may cause a symptom felt as a shocking pain or sharp pain in the back. This pain may radiate down the leg/buttock. It may feel numb or a tingling sensation radiating down the leg. The feeling is usually referred to sciatic pain. The term is medically referred to as radiculopathy. In some cases, degenerative scoliosis may even cause permanent leg weakness or issues with bowel or bladder control.