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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

Hi Barb,
I have severe scoliosis which was ignored when I told my parents I was having a lot of back pain when I was about 15. Three years later, it was finally diagnosed and I had a spinal fusion to keep it from getting worse. I have had back pain every day of my life since I was 15, but if it had been diagnosed when I first complained, it could have been corrected and I would probably be pain free today and would not have had to have the recent fusion I had to stabilize my lower spine so it could hold up that huge sidewards-curving spine above it. My curve was over 60 degrees when it was diagnosed.

Two of my three kids also have scoliosis (which, of course, makes me feel very guilty for giving it to them). My daughter's is very mild and only gives her pain when she's trying to get out of doing the vacuuming. My son's was found when he was 14. His was worse than his sister's, and we ended up putting him in a brace. He will be 18 next weekend, and last week he was finally told he could stop wearing the brace. He's not out of the woods yet. His curve is now at about 35 degrees. They will still consider surgery if it gets over 40 degrees. He has no pain whatsoever, even though his curve is evident through his clothing. It's not real obvious, but if he leans over, it can be seen.

Okay, all that said, I don't intend to make you feel like you've ignored you son's problem. You did have him seen. He did get a diagnosis. It's unfortunate that you lost your insurance and he wasn't followed for a while, but it's much more unfortunate that your new doctor didn't test him after you even told her about his diagnosis. In my opinion, you need a new doctor. This is so easy to spot! She could have checked him in about 30 seconds! Having been told that he has scoliosis, any good doctor would have and should have done that simple check.

A plain old x-ray shows the curve quite well. It can be measured by any competent physician.

Since your son is now having pain, he definitely needs to be seen. He's 18 now? Look for an orthopaedic doctor who specializes in the spine. In my area, there are several well-known ortho groups, and each one has one or more doctors who only do spines. If you don't already know a good doctor to go to, call the prominent groups in your area and ask who does only spines. If you know any nurses or physical therapists, they're great resources to tell you who the best doctors are.

Yes, this can definitely progress with time. That's what happened to both me and to my son. The brace kept his from getting as bad as mine (thank the Lord!). Exercises for the core muscles might help, but it may still progress even with exercises. He may find that he has less pain, though, if his core muscles are stronger. I would have him stay away from lifting heavy weights. Heavy weight will put a lot of stress on a spine that's already struggling. The possible complications are restrictive lung, which just means that the rib cage on one side may compress and press on the lung on that side so he may get out of breath more quickly than he would otherwise, and of course, pain. For me, since mine was not treated when it should have been, I've now had a second fusion to deal with the increased pain and degeneration of my lumbar spine due to the abnormal sidewards pressure of the rest of my spine. I am now fused from about the middle of my chest (T4) all the rest of the way down.

It's not my intention to scare you. If his back had gotten as bad as mine had, you'd probably have known before now. But your son does need to be seen. This is a treatable problem. And by the way, medical technology has changed a whole lot since I was originally diagnosed and treated. My surgeon was orienting a new physician's assistant at my last appointment. He popped up my x-ray and described my case to her. He commented to her, "This fusion was done about 30 years ago. Today we'd never leave a patient like this. We have new methods today that they didn't have then." Your son wasn't able to be followed up for a while, but it's not too late. His pain is the main symptom to consider. If he's having this kind of pain now, it's not going to go away. It will probably get worse.

I'm so glad you posted and are trying to get help for your son. This is a good place to come for information and moral support. Way to go, Mom! Your son is fortunate to have a mom who is ready and wanting to help him. If you have other questions, please post. There's bound to be someone who can give you some feedback.

Good luck! I hope you can find a doctor you love for your son. Please come back and let us know how he's doing.


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