The New York Times Blog has an interesting piece on scoliosis. Most people associate scoliosis, a curvature of the spine deviating from the vertical by more than 10 degrees, with adolescents but recent studies have shown that it is actually more prevalent in older adults.
The most common cause of spinal deformities, such as scoliosis, arising in midlife or later is disc degeneration. Left unchecked, scoliosis can lead to extreme, often debilitating, chronic pain and serious conditions such as severe nerve damage or neuropathy. While many people immediately think of back braces at the first mention of scoliosis, they are not recommended for adults as they tend to further weaken core muscles. Many suffering with the pain caused by scoliosis use OTC pain relievers which can have long term effects. Surgery is generally a last resort and surgical complications are more prevalent in adults than in children.
Often, physiatrists or physical therapists will prescribe a less risky and less invasive approach: stretches or exercises that will serve to strengthen back muscles thereby halting further deviation and, perhaps, even straightening the curve. It is wise to attempt to alleviate some of the factors that contribute to scoliosis: being overweight, smoking and lack of physical fitness. Stretches or exercises that strengthen the core muscles (the muscles in the abdomen, back and pelvis) are a great preventative for all types of lower back dysfunction and pain.
Young adults should avoid smoking, keep themselves at a healthy weight, increase physical activity and perform exercises that will strengthen their core muscles in the hopes of, excuse the pun, staying ahead of the curve.