Medical Minute 1-27: Study Into Adult Scoliosis

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

It used to to be that Julia Eppler's back problems ruined her backstitch.

"I've had back pain since I was 14," she said.

Diagnosed at age 20 with adult scoliosis - her spine's curve grew from 24 degrees - to 54. Attempts at physical therapy and injections failed.

"It was very frustrating and I felt very limited," said Julia Eppler.

Half a million people have adult scoliosis in the U.S., and 40% will feel more pain each year.

"Many people, as the spine begins to age, and the discs degenerate, begin to experience more back and even leg pain," said Charles C. Edwards II, M.D., The Maryland Spine Center.

Doctor Charles Edwards at the Maryland spine center. A new study shows spinal surgery may be the only true option. Therapy - braces - and pain injections don't hold up long term for most. Still, the U.S. spends 860 billion bucks a year on these remedies.

"While we may try medicines and injections first, often times we will move onto surgery because those other methods just are not making a difference for them," said Dr. Edwards.

The study shows operative patients saw a significant boost in function and quality of life. That includes patients from 40 to 80 years old. Non-operative patients reported no improvement at all.

"I no longer have this sharp, burning, debilitating pain."

Julia's decompression and fusion surgery worked - and her spine works just fine now.

"The difference has been remarkable," she said.

The reward, simply sitting - and sewing.

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