Degenerative scoliosis, also known as adult onset scoliosis, describes a side-to-side curvature of the spine caused by degeneration of the facet joints and intervertebral discs which are the moving parts of the spine. This degeneration and resulting spinal asymmetry can occur slowly over time as a person ages. This is a completely different cause of scoliosis from the standard adolescent onset scoliosis.
When healthy, facet joints are like hinges that help the spine bend smoothly, and intervertebral discs are like cushions that absorb shock between vertebral bones. Everyone experiences natural degeneration of these joints and discs due to aging—the same processes that cause osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease—but for some people these degenerative processes are accelerated and/or cause more symptoms.
Painful symptoms of degenerative scoliosis are similar to lumbar osteoarthritis and/or lumbar degenerative disc disease because they are all part of the same degenerative process. Degenerative scoliosis can trigger the following types of discomfort:
- Dull ache or stiffness in the mid to low back
- Shock-like back pain that can radiate down the buttock and into the leg
- Pins-and-needles tingling and/or numbness that can radiate down the buttock and into the leg
- Sharp leg pain that develops while walking but subsides with rest