When I was 30 years old, I began having back and neck pain in 1995 following the birth of my second child. I kind of ignored the pain at first, treating with over the counter Ibuprofen. The pain continued to progress and I tried physical therapy, massage, multiple pillows, a couple of new beds, acupuncture, yoga, muscle relaxers and every quick fix gadget on the market. I saw a few different primary care physicians over the years and they didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I was told I was depressed and prescribed antidepressants and muscle relaxers. By 2011, my back had a noticeable lump and I had lost some height. I went to a Specialist (Neurosurgeon) who diagnosed me with Scoliosis with the apex at L1 and 35 degrees. He didn’t treat adult scoliosis, so I sought treatment in the Atlanta area.
From 2011-2020, I tried facet injections, Physical Therapy, Peak Scoliosis Brace & Radio Frequency Ablation. I had difficulty and increased pain with standing and walking but I was able to sit for extended periods of time. I was an Accountant so fortunately; it didn’t interfere with my career too much at that time. Over time, the bulge in my back became more pronounced, I had GI issues and the curvature progressed from 35 degrees in 2011 to 63 degrees in 2021 and I lost 4 inches in height.
In early 2021, I could tell that things were changing. I had more difficulty standing, I had horrible headaches that always started in my neck, it was taking me a long time to do simple things like take a shower, something didn’t seem right. An MRI was ordered and showed a progression from a 55 degree curve in 2016 to 63 degrees. I was concerned about my future and decided it was time to see a Specialist again. Together with my Neurosurgeon and my family, I made the difficult decision to proceed with surgery. The surgery was difficult and wasn’t without complications, challenges and setbacks. Success looks different to different people depending on the ultimate goal. My main goal was to stop the progression and restore some of my height and I believe those goals were achieved. The recovery process has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, achievements and setbacks. Initially, I made great progress and seemed to be functioning on adrenaline. I was off pain medication sooner than my medical team expected. However, there were setbacks along the way.
The entire journey has taken a toll on me both physically and emotionally. I did participate in physical therapy for 3-4 months following surgery but walking and time proved to be the best therapy. I now find myself unable to sit upright for long periods of time which affected my ability to work. I have increased pain in my upper back and neck. I thought that would pass and I attempted to return to work and struggled greatly for 9 months before making the emotional decision to retire after 36 years with the same company. I was fortunate to have a strong support system in my family and medical team.
It has been 2 years since my surgery and although I know I will continue to have struggles, pain and mobility issues, I do consider my surgery a success and given the choice, I would do it again.