Navigating Adult Degenerative Scoliosis: A Guide to Healthy Aging

Adult Degenerative Scoliosis is a form of scoliosis that affects adults who’ve had a normally shaped spine most of their lives but develop postural changes due to degenerative processes. This post discusses ways to reduce your risks and limit progression.
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As we age, some changes in our bodies are inevitable. While gradual degeneration is part of the natural aging process, dramatic changes in posture, such as those seen in Adult Degenerative Scoliosis (ADS), are not. Why do some people experience typical age-related changes in their spine, while others face more severe and sometimes debilitating conditions?

Understanding Adult Degenerative Scoliosis

ADS affects adults who’ve had a normally shaped spine for most of their lives but develop postural changes due to degenerative processes. It impacts over 35% of Americans over the age of 60, predominantly affecting women. Another common spinal issue is hyper kyphosis, which is an excessive forward curvature of the spine that can affect balance, function, and quality of life. 

What Is Normal Aging of the Spine?

Spinal changes from aging are influenced by genetics and the gradual drying out of our vertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers, distributing weight-bearing forces evenly and providing stability during movement. When discs degenerate, they lose height, increasing the load on the facet joints — the parts of the spine that protect the discs from torsional forces. Over time, uneven wear and tear can cause segmental shifts in the vertebrae, leading to instability and collapse. Normal aging is some degenration without deformity. It’s all relative I suppose depending on your health and fitness levels throughout life, but normal aging of the spine doesn’t involve a significant change in structure. 

Factors Contributing to ADS

Several factors can exacerbate disc degeneration and contribute to ADS, including:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Fractures
  • Diabetes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Imbalances in gait
  • Chronic inflammation

Enhancing Spinal Health and Limiting Risks

To improve spinal health and reduce the risk of ADS, consider these research-backed strategies:

1. Maintaining Disc Health Intervertebral discs are crucial for spinal integrity, relying on diffusion through their endplates for nutrients and waste removal. Conditions like osteoporosis, spinal trauma, and inflammatory diseases increase the risk of disc degeneration.

Tips for Disc Health:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Use proper body mechanics to reduce strain
  • Seek prompt care after spinal injuries

While advanced research explores supplements, regenerative medicine, and disc replacement surgeries, these options are still in their early stages.

2. Postural Awareness Good posture is essential for spinal health. Poor posture can be indicated by difficulty maintaining a straight, upright position. Strengthening specific muscle groups, like those that support your spine and pelvis, will not only improve your spinal health, but maintain your posture.

Tips for Postural Health:

  • Engage in exercises that promote strength, flexibility, and balance. (If you have a condition like osteoporosis, a joint replacement, neurological condition that impacts your balance, or a number of other conditions, consulting a professional like a physical therapist is recommended to help guide you in safe and effective exercises for postural health.)

3. Prioritizing Bone Health Strong bones reduce the risk of osteoporosis and related spinal deformities. Factors influencing bone density include genetics, medications, and overall health.

Tips for Bone Health:

  • Perform weight-bearing exercises, such as resistance training
  • Eat a balanced diet, possibly supplemented with calcium and vitamin D

4. Making Sensible Lifestyle Choices Healthy lifestyle choices impact overall well-being and can decrease the risk of ADS. Factors such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy relationships, and avoiding smoking contribute to spinal health.

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle:

  • Prioritize mental health alongside physical health
  • Surround yourself with supportive people and resources

5. Using Braces or Assistive Devices For severe deformities or pain, short-term use of a customized brace or assistive devices like walkers or canes can help reduce postural strain and balance deficits.

6. Considering Surgical Options Surgical correction of ADS is complex and should be carefully considered. Advanced techniques now take postural balance into account, but it’s crucial to understand the risks and benefits. Less invasive options, such as spinal injections and nerve blocks, may also be beneficial.

Conclusion

ADS is a challenging condition with varying severity and symptoms. If you don’t have spinal concerns, take proactive steps now to maintain your spinal health! 

For those with ADS, stay as active as possible. Reach out to your trusted healthcare providers and stay informed about the latest research and treatments available. Overall, there is lots you can do to care for your spine, prevent deterioration and maintain an overall sense of health and well-being.

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