MedWatch Today: Learning About Adult Scoliosis

Med Watch Today

If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you know how frustrating it can be to live your life to the fullest. Certain symptoms of back discomfort could even be a sign of adult scoliosis.

When Beverly Wahlenmeier was referred to see Spine and Neuro Surgeon Dr. Derek Taggard, she was in desperate need of pain relief.

Beverly said, “In 2008, I had a fusion in my lower back which helped for a while and then after a few years about five years after that it started to hurt again… I went to my doctor and I said, ‘This is not getting better’.”

Dr. Taggard explains, Beverly had a mild spinal deformity – degenerative scoliosis or adult scoliosis.

“So that degenerative scoliosis occurs really as a combination of two factors. One is the deterioration of the disc space in the front of the spine as the water content is lost and there’s natural deterioration in the disk space. There’s increased degenerative forces in more low chair back on the back part of the joints of the spine called the facet joints,” said Dr. Taggard.

Adult scoliosis can rob someone, like Beverly, of their livelihood.

Dr. Taggard stated, “It’s not just back pain alone, but there’s nerve symptoms in the legs, whether it’s radiculopathy or a single pinched nerve in the back or presentation where patients have significant lumbard stenosis and they have difficulty walking because of pain or numbness in their legs or the feeling that their legs will give out.”

Beverly was offered surgery and knew it was the best plan of action to help get her life back.

“Just walking, doing cooking, going to the grocery store those sort of things… you’re limited, and so I would choose one or the other maybe going to the grocery store, then I would have to lay down… The last time the family went to Disneyland, I ended up in a wheel chair. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t do it,” stated Beverly.

The goals of surgery are to restore spinal balance and reduce pain and discomfort by relieving nerve pressure and maintaining corrected alignment. Dr. Taggard said Beverly’s procedure was successful, but surgery is actually rare for adults who have scoliosis.

“Maybe about ten-percent of the population has some degree of scoliosis, but really it’s about five percent of patients that are undergoing surgery,” Dr. Taggard said.

He said there are non-operative measures that can be taken to alleviate pain for patients who do not have disabling symptoms.

The doctor added, “There’s certainly natural degeneration in the normal healthy spine that occurs; but when we see things that are falling outside of the norm, then we try to intervene through strengthening programs and non-surgical means.”

Beverly is grateful the surgery worked for her, and recommends anyone who suffers from chronic back pain to see their doctor right away.

“It’s just changed. I, my son just got married and I danced the night away. So it was just, it’s changed my whole life… Kinda gets a little emotional, but I just thank you, thank you for giving my life back, the team and everybody,” ended Beverly.

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