About one out of every 100 persons in the general population has some type of scoliosis. Although most of these cases are mild, scoliosis can develop to the point where those diagnosed may need to seek treatment. In basic terms, scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine, instead of the spine being a straight line down the middle of the back. Scoliosis curves can become so severe as to resemble the letter “C” or “S.”
Scoliosis usually develops in childhood and is most commonly found in young girls. However, males and adults can be diagnosed with scoliosis as well. Scoliosis also tends to run in families. Particularly, daughters of women who have scoliosis are at an increased risk for having scoliosis.
Rebecca Muth was diagnosed with scoliosis around the age of 12. However, the orthopaedic specialist she saw at that time believed it was only minor and would not progress to the point of needing treatment. Because of this diagnosis, Rebecca did not schedule any follow-up visits and thought little about the scoliosis.
However, as Rebecca grew older, her back became increasingly painful and a bulge in her ribs started to become apparent. By the time she finished high school she could barely stand, sit or walk for a long amount of time.
“At the end of each day I felt exhausted from the pain,” said Rebecca. “Following what the doctor said, I thought the pain was normal and couldn’t be helped. So I continued to live with it.”
During her college classes she would have to constantly shift herself around in her seat to get comfortable enough to sit through a single class period. At the time, Rebecca was studying audio engineering so she had to do a lot of hands-on work with audio equipment, much of which was heavy.
“I was always at a disadvantage compared to my classmates since the pain and instability of my back made it extremely difficult to lift or carry anything heavy,” said Rebecca. “I usually had to stand back and watch as my classmates did the work for me.”
Rebecca also played bass guitar in a band for awhile, but practices became unbearable with the weight of the instrument pulling her down. It got to the point where Rebecca started avoiding all activities that would jostle her spine, such as horseback riding, which was one of her favorite pastimes.
“The worst part was that I had a young child who was about to turn one. I couldn’t hold her for any length of time or even bend over to change her diaper or dress her because of the pain.”
Just before Rebecca turned 21 she decided she couldn’t take the pain anymore and went to OrthoIndy for a second opinion. She was immediately recommended for a spinal fusion surgery.
During a spinal fusion, which usually lasts four to 12 hours, the curved vertebrae are fused together so that they heal into a single solid bone. This will stop growth completely in the abnormal segment of the spine and prevent the curve from getting worse.
All spinal fusions use some type of bone material, called a bone graft, to help promote the fusion. Generally, small pieces of bone are placed into the spaces between the vertebrae to be fused. The bones grow together, similar to when a broken bone heals. Metal rods are typically used to hold the spine in place until this fusion happens.
“OrthoIndy took my complaints of pain and discomfort very seriously and even apologized for the bad medical advice I had received as a child,” said Rebecca. “I was scheduled for surgery the following month. All of the doctors and nurses I encountered before and after my surgery were kind, compassionate and helpful. It was so reassuring to know that if I had any concerns or questions, at any hour of the day, I could reach someone by phone.”
OrthoIndy and Rebecca worked with Indiana University to create classroom accommodations for Rebecca so she didn’t have to miss any of her classes after surgery.
The first few days after a spinal fusion are the most uncomfortable, but most people improve rapidly by the third or fourth day. They can walk around and get in and out of bed well enough to go home. The pain continues to improve gradually and by three to six weeks after surgery pain medicine is no longer necessary at all.
“My recovery went very smoothly and now, two years later, I feel wonderful,” said Rebecca. “I can barely remember what it was like living in pain.”
Rebecca is now able to run, play and have fun with her daughter without any pain. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree and is now doing audio work professionally, including all the heavy lifting by herself! She is also able to do many other things she enjoys that the back pain previously stopped her from doing. She now owns several horses that she is able to ride and she is even in to riding motorcycles now.
To schedule an appointment with one of our spine surgeons please call (317) 802-2000 or request an appointment online at OrthoIndy.com/request.