Scoliosis is one of the most common congenital spinal problems. Pinched nerves can develop from the deformity, causing numbness or weakness. You may notice these symptoms if you have a scoliosis-related pinched nerve.
Scoliosis is when your spine curves to the left or right. People with this condition may experience many different complications, including pinched nerves and related pain.
This article explores how the abnormal curvature of the spine in scoliosis can lead to symptoms such as nerve-related pain and problems, and how you might consider treating those issues in consultation with your healthcare team.
Scoliosis is a type of abnormal spinal curvature in which the spine curves to the left or right rather than running straight down the middle of your back.
There are three main areas where your spine naturally curves. But for people with scoliosis, additional uneven curving to the left and right develops — often during childhood or the teen years.
The three main areas where your spine naturally curves follow the inward and outward curvature of your back, so you can stand and move properly. These natural curves do not cause your spine to curve to the sides, which is what happens with scoliosis. Also, the abnormal curvature is uneven, to the lift or right.
These additional curves don’t always cause symptoms. They might only be diagnosed after you notice
Pinched nerves can develop from a wide range of injuries or progressive conditions.
A pinched nerve, or radiculopathy, usually appears with scoliosis when the curve of your spine or degenerative disease starts to put too much pressure on the nerves that run along the sides of your spinal cord.
There are 31 pairs of nerves and nerve roots that extend from your spinal cord. Any of these nerves can become pinched, compressed, displaced, or damaged when one or more of the 24 bones in your spine move or shift.
There are four main areas of the spine, and each has a natural amount of curvature. These sections are known as the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral sections.
Congenital scoliosis, which can be diagnosed during childhood and adolescence, involves the thoracic spine and usually doesn’t cause symptoms. Adults can also develop degenerative spine disease (usually in the lower part of the spine), which worsens scoliosis symptoms.
- sciatic nerve
- superior gluteal nerve
- inferior gluteal nerve
- the nerves that power the internal obturator and superior gemellus muscles
- the nerves that power the quadratus femoris and inferior gemellus muscles
These nerves mostly correlate to pain in the hips, pelvis, and legs. Degenerative scoliosis of the lumbar spine can lead to pain in some of these areas.
Having a scoliosis flare-up is not technically possible because it’s usually a congenital condition that causes abnormal curves in the spine. The scoliosis curves can also worsen, becoming more curved to the left or right over time.
This means you can experience flare-ups in the pain experienced as a result of this condition, and the inflammation can worsen and cause the pinched nerve symptoms to flare up.
In severe cases, the pain can be debilitating or interfere with your ability to carry out your everyday tasks.
Pressure on nerves in the lumbar or sacral areas can cause general pain, burning, numbness, or tingling feelings similar to a cramp.
Scoliosis can cause pain or discomfort in different areas of your back, as well as your neck, depending on where the nerves are pinched.
However, pain from nerves that get pinched as a result of scoliosis is usually focused on your middle back areas, from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage just above your lower back.
You may experience pain, numbness, and tingling from your neck to other parts of your body connected to the impacted nerve.
In mild cases of scoliosis, observation is the most common form of treatment. Observation involves you having regular exams and X-rays to monitor the curvature of your spine.
Surgical treatment is usually reserved for when curvature exceeds 40 degrees or when you’re having severe pain or nerve compression.
If you’re having problems with nerve compression or compression of other tissues, your care team may administer additional treatments to help expand openings in spinal areas where nerves pass through. This type of procedure is called decompression surgery and usually involves the removal of a small portion (the laminae) of the vertebrae to create more space.
If you are not to the point where surgery is required to address your scoliosis and/or nerve compression, your doctor may recommend things like yoga, physical therapy, or bracing.
Bracing is usually only done in people whose bones are still developing like children and teens. A special brace is created and fitted for you to gently and gradually realign the spine. Your healthcare team can help you understand when and how often to wear this brace at home.
Scoliosis causes your spine to curve sideways to the left or right. This condition can affect your posture as well as lead to pain and nerve compression. Pinched nerves can cause numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness that runs from your lower back down to your feet.
Mild cases of scoliosis may be treated with physical therapy or bracing. But if you are older or have more advanced scoliosis with nerve compression, you may need surgery to straighten your spine and create more space for nerves to pass through spinal areas.