Scoliosis Treatment in the Elderly

Updated February 21, 2017

Scoliosis is a disorder where the patient's spine is curved to the left or right or slightly s-shaped. In most cases it becomes apparent in childhood or is even present at birth; in others, however, it may be caused by age-related degeneration of the spine, especially in patients who were treated for scoliosis as children. Depending on the degree of curvature and the patient's age and overall health, this condition may warrant different kinds of treatment.

Conservative Treatment

Surgery isn't typically necessary for elderly patients suffering from scoliosis. Moist heat and pain medications can help relieve any pain caused by this condition without incurring the risk of possible complications associated with surgery. Braces are not helpful for cases of adult scoliosis.

Exercise & Physical Therapy

Exercise and physical therapy can maintain strength in your back muscles and help you manage; in fact, moderate exercise is one of the best strategies for coping with adult scoliosis. If you've previously had back surgery, however, or suffer from other spinal conditions, you should refrain from activity that twists or places excess stress on your spine, since excessive twisting under these circumstances could potentially cause further deterioration.


If curvature of the spine becomes severe or begins to impair heart and lung function, doctors may try surgery to correct the condition. Surgery will rarely achieve a completely straight spine for adult scoliosis patients, however, and if heart or lung function are badly impaired it may make it more difficult--if not impossible--to operate. Surgeons will often remove an intervertebral disc, combine two or more vertebrae---a procedure called spinal fusion---and use screws or other medical hardware to stabilise the spine in a straighter position.


Surgery for adult scoliosis is associated with greater risk than similar procedures in children or teenagers. Pneumonia, infection and recurring pain are among the possible adverse outcomes. Full recovery from the procedure may take months and it may be quite some time before the benefits become apparent. In many cases, the risks of surgery may even outweigh the benefits, so doctors prefer to resort to surgery only when necessary.


Generally rest, moderate exercise and physical therapy are considered the most promising approaches to managing adult scoliosis, unless curvature becomes progressively more severe or begins to impact other functions. Some patients have also tried chiropractic treatment as well. As always, however, if you have questions or concerns about your condition the best person to consult is your doctor.

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About the Author

Based in San Diego, John Brennan has been writing about science and the environment since 2006. His articles have appeared in "Plenty," "San Diego Reader," "Santa Barbara Independent" and "East Bay Monthly." Brennan holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.