10 Frequently Asked Questions About Scoliosis

1. Does scoliosis cause other health problems?

If scoliosis is severe it can affect your heart, lungs, gut, spinal cord and nerves, producing a large range of problems ranging from difficulty to breathing to difficulty walking. Fortunately this is not common. Many cases of scoliosis respond to conservative treatment (such as bracing) and do not require surgery.

2. Is there a link between muscle strength and the development of scoliosis?

Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine. The spine may look like a “C” or “S” on x-ray. Scoliosis may result from juvenile scoliosis in children (unknown cause), diseases or injury of the spine, arthritis, neurological disease, surgery, etc. Neurological disease such as a spine tumor may cause back muscle weakness, which can result in scoliosis. It is not caused from being out of shape or weak.

3. What happens if scoliosis goes untreated?

Untreated scoliosis can cause a hunch back called kyphosis. Treatment depends on the age, the severity of the scoliosis and whether it is causing problems. Children are watched for scoliosis during their growth spurts. If the scoliosis is treated early with a brace then sometimes future surgery can be prevented. If scoliosis becomes severe it can affect posture, walking, lungs, heart, gut and strength, as well as causing pain. People with significant scoliosis should be closely monitored by their doctor or spine surgeon.

4. Does scoliosis ever develop later in life?

Yes, scoliosis can develop later in life from injury, back surgery, cancer, or arthritis.

5. Can scoliosis prevent a person from being able to walk?

Severe scoliosis can cause significant spinal deformity, which alters the shape of the back, causing weakness and difficulty walking. If you think your scoliosis is hindering your movement, I would recommend seeing spine surgeon who specializes in scoliosis surgery.

6. Can scoliosis cause chronic back pain?

Yes, scoliosis can cause back pain. As you age the spine wears out in a process called degeneration. This wearing out can worsen the scoliosis. Scoliosis can cause pain and usually the pain and dysfunction is related to severity. That is the more severe the scoliosis the more pain and dysfunction.

7. How does scoliosis affect the back muscles?

The back muscles can be affected by: 1) A neurological problem such as s spinal cord tumor can cause weakness in the muscles resulting in scoliosis. 2) The curved spine can strain the back muscles. 3) The curved spine can pinch off spinal nerves, weakening the back muscles.

8. Can a chiropractor help with scoliosis?

The chiropractor may help pain, but is unlikely to improve the deformity. Brace or surgery is usually needed to correct or stop the progression of scoliosis. I would discuss it with your spine surgeon.

9. Does scoliosis progress after a person is done growing?

Typical childhood (idiopathic) scoliosis progresses during the child’s growth spurt and is less concerning after you stop growing. It may worsen from arthritis in old age. Other rare types of scoliosis may progress after you stop growing.

10. Do people that have untreated scoliosis generally become shorter over time?

Mild scoliosis has little effect on height. Severe scoliosis causes a severe curve in the back and often a hunched back (kyphosis) making the patient shorter.

The Top 5 Questions About Recovery After Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion

1. How long will I have to stay in the hospital after minimally invasive lumbar fusion?
It is generally a rule of thumb to say that minimally invasive spine surgery usually will decrease the patient’s hospital stay by half. For a typical endoscopic discectomy and lumbar fusion surgery, the surgeries are performed in the same day, and the patients is usually able to go home in two to three days, compared to a hospital stay of five to seven days with traditional open lumbar surgery.

2. When can I go back to work after minimally invasive lumbar fusion?
This decision varies for each patient, depending on the type of work the individual does. If the patient has a sedentary job, he or she could likely return to part-time work a month or six weeks after lumbar fusion surgery. For more physical occupations, the patient must seek the advice of his or her surgeon on when it would be safe to return to work. Patients generally return to work much more quickly after minimally invasive surgery than after traditional open surgery.

3. What is the recovery time for endoscopic lumbar fusion?
The recovery time for each surgery is different. While some patients are able to return to full activity within only six weeks, others can require more time. Your surgeon will be able to give you a good estimate of what your recovery time will be like based on your individual needs and circumstances. I definitely encourage all of my patients to participate in a physical therapy program so that they can safely begin to return to the normal activities of their lives.

4. How long after minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery will my pain last?
Pain generally follows that same rule of thumb as hospital stays with endoscopic spinal fusion: the patient usually experiences pain for half the time he or she would with traditional surgery. Patients typically experience the most pain in the first week with a gradual lessening of pain over the next six or so weeks. Each patient recovers differently.

5. Will I need physical therapy after endoscopic spinal fusion surgery?
I highly recommend physical therapy to all of my patients. It is an important part of a quick and easy recovery and return to full function and range of motion. While it varies from patient to patient, most patients who undergo endoscopic lumbar fusion will start physical therapy four to six weeks after the surgery.

What is Endoscopic Spinal Fusion?

If the spine is unstable and puts extensive stress on the facet joints, or if there is significant pain originating from the disc or other structures, the spine may still need to be fused. Fortunately, minimally invasive fusion techniques have been developed, which allow for less pain and quicker healing times for the patient, this is known as endoscopic fusion of the spine. Endoscopic fusion treats degenerative spinal disease and instability that cause back and leg pain. In most cases an endoscopic discectomy is necessary. The damaged disc is removed through the endoscope, and spinal endplates are prepared for fusion under direct visualization. Endoscopic fusion is performed under general anesthetic to facilitate the insertion of spinal instrumentation. Patients are usually discharged on the same day as the surgery, and have much less pain and a quicker recovery than those who undergo traditional spinal fusion surgery. Patients can usually begin physical therapy within a month after fusion surgery.