Outcomes of Nonsurgical Treatments for Symptomatic Adult Degenerative Scoliosis: A Systematic Review

Carlijn Schoutens, Daniel M. Cushman, Zachary L. McCormick, Aaron Conger, Barend J. Van Royen, William R. Spiker

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Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of nonsurgical treatments in symptomatic adult degenerative scoliosis (ADS). Design: A systematic literature review. Methods: PubMed, Web of Science, and The Cochrane Library were searched to identify research published since 1988. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational cohort studies were eligible if they featured symptomatic ADS patients aged ≥50 who received nonsurgical treatment. Minimum follow-up was six weeks, and outcomes of interest were pain, disability, quality of life, and Cobb angle. Evidence quality per intervention was rated using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. Results: Six studies were included. Of these, four focused specifically on injections, bracing, or yoga; two involved multiple treatments. One RCT provided evidence for greater effectiveness of transforaminal epidural steroid injection over anesthetic alone in reducing radiating pain and disability. Two single-group retrospective cohort studies lent support for bracing to slow curve progression. One retrospective single-group cohort study suggested an association between yoga and reduced curve progression. Evidence for injections to reduce ADS symptoms was rated as low quality; evidence for bracing and yoga was rated as very low quality. No specific evidence was identified regarding other treatments, including physical therapy and analgesics. Conclusions: Literature describing the effectiveness of nonoperative treatments in symptomatic ADS is scarce. The quantity and quality of the evidence regarding injections, bracing, and yoga are insufficient to advise for or against the use of these methods to improve outcomes in symptomatic ADS. For these and other nonoperative treatment forms, further research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1275
Number of pages13
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Adult Degenerative Scoliosis
  • Degenerative Spinal Disorders
  • Lumbar Spine
  • Nonoperative Treatment
  • Scoliosis
  • Treatment Outcome

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