Can Scoliosis Cause Arthritis?


Scoliosis ArthritisScoliosis, a spinal condition, involves an abnormal curvature of the spine and can cause Scoliosis Arthritis. It can range from a mild curve to a severe disabling one causing several complications.  Scoliosis can be idiopathic without any known cause, or congenital as a result of neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. In addition, the causes of this condition can point to prior surgeries, bone defects, injuries, infection of the spine, or even degenerative disc disease in adults and the elderly.

Serious complications that can arise from scoliosis, especially when left untreated include; breathing problems, back problems, and structural changes like bent backs and uneven hips. Arthritis is known as a complication and a cause of scoliosis.  As a cause and effect, it appears in the elderly and is also known as Degenerative Scoliosis. This affects balance and the joints of the spine including facet joints causing inflammation and arthritis in those joints, especially due to constant wear and tear.

What Is Scoliosis Arthritis?

Degenerative Scoliosis also called Adult Onset Scoliosis or Scoliosis Arthritis is caused by the effects of aging on the spine.  It often follows the same degenerative process seen in osteoarthritis. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints and allows damaging spinal tension.

Can Arthritis Cause Scoliosis?

Arthritis, which refers to inflammation of joints, can affect any joint in the body including the spinal joints and facets.  The spinal facet joints are hinge-like pairs of small joints found between vertebrae in the back of the spine. Healthy spinal facet joints provide spinal support and allow movements at the joints to include twisting and bending.

The facet joints of the lower back carry the body’s weight and are prone to erosion from wear and tear. They are also richly innervated and like osteoarthritis, these joints may become inflamed, and swollen, pressing on nerves, and causing pain. Doctors refer to this as Facet Joint Disease. There are spinal discs in the spine as well, that lie between the vertebrae to provide cushion and bear weight. With age, wear, and tear occur and these discs begin to get progressively thinner, causing the weight to transfer to the facet joints.

A combination of these could cause spinal stenosis, compressing nerves. It may also progress faster on one side of the spine and this makes the spine change from its correct position.  When changing, it can cause Degenerative Scoliosis. The curve of this condition occurs most often at the lumbar part of the spine.

Major Risk Factors for Scoliosis Arthritis include:



Aging causes a natural erosion of the spinal discs and spinal facet joints. Over time, this can often cause a spinal misalignment and spinal curve.


Repeating activities like using a jackhammer usually affect facet joints over time by causing wear and tear and pain.

Signs and Symptoms Of Scoliosis Arthritis

A good percentage of the time, Degenerative Scoliosis may go unnoticed due to the absence of signs and symptoms. When noticed, the pain, specifics, and severity vary from person to person.

Progressive Pain

Pain from degenerative scoliosis creeps in slowly. It first manifests as light pain or a dull ache in the lower back and over time, it gets more intense and becomes worse with activity. The pain may get worse early in the morning and get better throughout the day if the person remains seated with few activities.  Standing and rigorous activity, especially for long periods, increases pain due to the weight placed on the facet joints.

Postural Changes

Since degenerative scoliosis causes the spine to curve in one direction, shoulders and hips may become uneven. Thus, a person can also get shorter due to thinning of the spinal discs which normally adds to a person’s height.  The curve may get larger with the symptoms worsening to the point where they interfere with daily living. Some of the signs that could occur at this stage are;

Radicular Symptoms

As a result of the thinning discs, joint inflammation, and spinal curvature, one or more never roots could become impinged and cause radicular symptoms. Hence, these symptoms usually occur on one side of the body and may include searing or shock-like pain, tingling, numbness to body parts, a weakness that goes down the back to the buttock, thigh, legs, and foot in some people.

Neurogenic Claudication

Lumbar spinal stenosis can occur with degenerative scoliosis. This is when the spinal canal in the lumbar area becomes narrowed and compresses the nerves present there.  Importantly, this problem can cause pain in both legs or muscle cramps during daily activities like walking short distances.

The milder form of this pain can get better if the person sits down for a while.  Another method of relief is to flex the spine forward. In the severe form, however, intense pain can continue while a person rests or flexes forward.

Severe Spinal Deformity

The degree of a scoliosis spinal curve can vary from one person to another.  Some people can develop a curve reaching 90° and causing a forward hunch called kyphosis. Extreme spinal curves culminate with balance problems and with ribs that dangerously push against vital organs.

However, it rarely causes impingement of the spinal cord to cause other problems like bladder or bowel incontinence.


Diagnosis of Degenerative Scoliosis requires doctors who can see subtle changes in spinal alignment and link symptoms to the condition. At the Scoliosis Institute, top spine doctors will focus on diagnosing and treating spine problems.

Patient History

A full patient medical history provides the data for doctors to make a medical diagnosis. Lifestyle factors like previous employment, parent history, past injuries, illnesses, routine medications, and the start of symptoms help to understand the condition and need to be documented. This data helps doctors know where to look and narrow down possible problems.

Physical Exams

Physical exams are another tool in the diagnosis of Degenerative Scoliosis. This can help to check the patient’s strength levels, flexibility, and reflexes and also narrow down any conditions that may have caused the symptoms. If symptoms like tingling sensations, shock-like pain, or numbness occur, doctors may request imaging to further identify the cause.

Imaging Studies

MRIs, CT scans, or X-rays can help in further diagnosis, as they can show changes in the spine including narrowed disc spaces or vertebrae with bone spurs that reveal osteoporosis. The X-ray can also measure the angle of spinal curvature i.e the Cobb Angle. If the Cobb Angle is 10 degrees or higher, a scoliosis diagnosis is confirmed.

Treatment Of Scoliosis Arthritis

Our doctors know that each and every patient requires their own treatment plan because what works for one patient may not work for the other. Our doctors believe in the uniqueness of each patient and treat each case as special.  The patient’s diagnosis is used by our Doctors as a basis for a treatment plan for each patient. Not all cases of adult scoliosis require surgery and the majority of our patients will not undergo surgery.

Physical Therapy 

Physical therapy helps to maintain core strength in the abdomen and back, maintain flexibility, and reduce levels of pain. Doctors may suggest low-impact exercises and stretching to help the patient stay active and reduce pain.

Lifestyle Changes

A patient’s lifestyle can affect how fast or slow a disc degeneration process will progress. Our Experts may advise the patient to stop activities that put extra pressure on the spine, which of course could cause negative effects.


If the pain does not get better through physical therapy or lifestyle changes, doctors may prescribe mild oral medicine. If that doesn’t work, nerve block injections may provide more relief to the patient.


Our Doctors consider surgery as the last option for those suffering from Adult Scoliosis. In cases of spinal problems where the curve has grown and causes pain. a doctor may suggest surgery where treatments fail and pain gets worse. Doctors conduct spine surgeries to improve the quality of life of their patients, by stabilizing the spine, restoring balance, and relieving the pressure on nerves causing pain. Depending on the patient’s unique condition, treatment may involve spinal fusion, spinal decompression, or both.


The Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute is a Premier Scoliosis Treatment Center with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco, Texas. We have top-rated, board-certified, fellowship-trained doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating Scoliosis, Complex Spine Issues, and Spine Revision for both children and adults.

Finally, our doctors specialize in providing solutions even when other specialists claim nothing can be done.  Please note that we have successfully treated over 100,000 patients and carried out over 16,000 surgeries. We offer hope and deliver solutions.  Call us today.


National Library of Medicine
British Journal of Sports Medicine