It is perfectly normal to have a curve in your spine. In fact, if you run your fingers down someone’s spine, you will notice it curves inward and outward. However, there are other ways that the spine can curve which are abnormal.
Scoliosis refers to a curve that deviates the spine vertically. For instance, when you examine a person’s spine, it should resemble a straight line going down. When there is a curve that resembles an “S” or a “C” shape, it is known as scoliosis.
While pretty common among children, scoliosis is considered an abnormality. Most people with scoliosis don’t need surgery since the condition often manifests in mild forms. However, there are many situations when doctors recommend surgery for scoliosis.
Here’s how spine surgery treats scoliosis and when doctors recommend it.
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can cause the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (chest and upper back region), or lumbar spine (lower back) to curve sideways in an “S” shape, either to the left or the right side. Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, which means that the cause is unidentifiable. However, it could be congenital (present at birth) or caused by degenerative or neuromuscular conditions.
Though most cases of scoliosis are mild, some curves can worsen over time. Severe scoliosis can become debilitating. Some signs and symptoms of scoliosis are:
- Uneven shoulder height
- The head isn’t centered with the rest of the body
- Difference in shoulder blade height or position
- Difference in hip height or position
- Asymmetry in the ribs
- Back pain and stiffness
- Numbness in the legs
- Excessive fatigue
What Are The Complications Caused By Scoliosis?
Most cases of scoliosis are mild. Despite this, it could still cause a lot of complications, such as:
- Breathing problems. When scoliosis becomes severe, the ribcage can press against the lungs, making breathing difficult.
- Back problems. Scoliosis can cause chronic back pain, especially if left untreated.
- Misshapen appearance. The physical symptoms of scoliosis could make patients feel self-conscious about their appearance.
There are numerous nonsurgical methods for treating scoliosis, and most patients don’t need surgery. However, surgical intervention may be necessary to straighten severe curves.
How Does Spine Surgery Treat Scoliosis?
For patients with curves that progress beyond 50 degrees, three main surgical options are often used to treat scoliosis:
- Spinal fusion — Two or more bones in the spine are permanently fused by placing bone-like material or pieces of bone between the vertebrae. Metal rods, screws, wires, or hooks are used to hold that section of the spine straight.
- Expanding rod — An expandable rod is attached along the spine and lengthened as the patient grows, usually every three to six months.
- Verbal body tethering — Through small incisions, the surgeon places screws along the outer edge of the abnormal spinal curve and a strong, flexible cord is woven through the screws. When it’s tightened, the tension pulls the spine back into proper alignment.
What Are The Benefits Of Spine Surgery?
The most significant benefits of spine surgery for scoliosis are:
- Stopping the curve’s progression. It prevents the deformity from getting any worse.
- Reducing the deformity. When the deformity is reduced, the patient can stand straighter and physical symptoms that are impacting their self-esteem are reduced.
- Maintaining trunk balance. It maintains the spine’s natural curvature, keeps the hips and legs even, and improves trunk balance overall.
- Eliminates pain. Chronic pain caused by scoliosis could be reduced or eliminated using spine surgery.
Why Would I Need Spine Surgery?
If your scoliosis is mild, it’s likely that you won’t need spine surgery. However, your doctor might recommend spine surgery if:
- The curve in your spine is getting worse
- You’re experiencing severe back pain that doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatments
- The nerves in your spine are being pinched or irritated
- Your spinal curve is greater than 50 degrees
- You’re suffering from bowel or bladder symptoms
Spine surgery is a major operation that carries potential risks and takes time to recover from. So, you must discuss the risks, benefits, and effects thoroughly with your doctor before pursuing spine surgery.
Spine Surgery In Colorado Springs, CO
Scoliosis causes abnormal spinal curvatures that could lead to emotional and physical issues. While most cases of scoliosis are mild and require nonsurgical treatment, spine surgery could also improve a patient’s quality of life, especially if the scoliosis is severe. Keep in mind that surgery is never without risk — that’s why you must consult with your doctor and carefully weigh the benefits and risks.
If you have scoliosis and are having trouble dealing with the symptoms, visit Front Range Neurosurgery. Our board-certified, experienced neurosurgeons focus on helping patients recover fully from various spine and brain conditions and achieve the highest quality of life possible.
Call our friendly staff at (303) 790-1800 to schedule an appointment, or you may fill out our online appointment form. We have multiple locations in Colorado that are always ready to serve you with quality care. We look forward to hearing from you!