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38 degree lumbar scoliosis..22 year old..can I have surgery?

lolabeellolabee Posts: 2
edited 04/25/2015 - 8:08 PM in Scoliosis
Hi everyone! I'm new here and I really need some advice. I'm a 22 year-old living with scoliosis, and I'm very much bothered by it. I grew up in China and my parents weren't aware of my condition, until I felt back pain and realized I walked funny in my late teenage years. I was finally diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 17. The curvature was around 35 degrees in my lower back/lumbar area. The doctor in China said I could do surgery if I really wanted, but I didn't opt for it in fear of bad consequences.

I came to the US for college when I was 18. The curvature didn't progress a lot after that, but my condition has been bothering me more and more both physically and mentally. I am very self-aware of how I walk and look almost every minute of every day. My back pain has grown worse and worse. I feel constant pain that sometimes disallows me to just sit there and do work. I started to find it harder to make subtle movements such as turning my head, raising and lowering my legs, or doing simple tasks with my fingers such as typing or eating. Lately I became even more depressed because I feel like I have less and less control of my hands and fingers. My hands/fingers become weaker and stiffer, they shake slightly, which I suspect having to do with nerve damages from my scoliosis. I become uncomfortable eating with other people as I'm afraid they'll notice my shaking condition. As an outgoing person, I turned more and more away from people and only find conform lying on bed at home.

I went to a doctor in a good orthopedics and spine clinic in Atlanta. They asked for my pain level but since I'm not in severe pain it was hard for me to really illustrate. My shaking condition is also on a subtle level that they couldn't pin down. I took an x-ray. It's 38 degrees in lumbar area, so they suggested physical therapy and pain medicine. I don't take pain medicines. I tried physical therapy--it was expensive and unhelpful.

I'm so depressed. I feel that no one could help me. I think surgery is the only possibly effective option left, but doctors here seem unlikely to recommend it since my curvature is below 40 degrees. I know some of you guys probably have been through much worse, but I just feel like in so much torture, constantly. I would really appreciate some advice, on possibly how to be eligible for a spinal fusion that medical insurance would cover, and on how to deal with the discomfort and pain associated with scoliosis.

Thanks in advance!!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
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  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Please, no need to compare yourself to others...re pain.
    Suffering is suffering and your pain is causing you to feel "tortured." ....and you need some control over that pain.

    Some here may be able to better relate to your more specific conditions...but we all relate to pain.

    I'm not sure, but you may feel a time crunch, as you may be under your parents health insurance and while it's not a deciding factor, good communication with doctor...so important.

    Also, your symptoms are worsening....from your head to your legs.....and you withdrawing from people. All of this is important for doctor to know.

    What does doctor say about you not taking prescribed pain meds? Are you seeing pain management doctor? Spinal specialist?
    There are other tests that can help doctor discover what else, if anything, is going on.....and what nerves are involved and how to best treat.

    Keep us posted on how you're doing!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Thank you so much for your reply Savage! I'm glad that you can relate to me. For more details..

    I was referred by my school's health center to a spine and orthopedics clinic. The hospital is pretty famous. Since I have a lot of stuff going on at the same time: scoliosis, back pain, leg pain, hand&head shaking&stiffness, etc, the doctor asked me which one is bothering me the most. He said hand and head shake are likely to be a neck problem, but scoliosis is another thing... I wasn't sure so I said scoliosis. And he just examined the x-ray of my lower back--it hasn't progressed a lot. When asked to describe my pain level, although I'm in constant ache and discomfort, I wouldn't say it's unbearable or disabling. So he just gave me prescription for pain meds and recommended physical therapy.. Should I go for neck problem again maybe? But I don't want meds and therapy again.

    I'm not a fan of pain meds honestly because I'm afraid of side effects/being addicted. It's the way my parents taught me.. I'm really hoping to improve the condition iteself..

    Physical therapy is like a joke to me. I don't see how a few stretches, dry needling and massage can help with my issue, and it's expensive.

    I don't know what to do.. I'm going to see neurology next week to see if my shaking problem has to do with neuro issues. If they couldn't find anything, I really don't know where to go... My shaking problem is becoming worse recently though.. My neck has become so stiff that it's just so tiring to do anything else but lying down.. I'm in the US by myself--my parents are in China and they couldn't help me. I do have insurance, but even with it, the cost is so high here compared to China and it's a big burden. Not whining...I just feel helpless sometimes..

    What are the other tests are you referring to? How can I get to do them?

    I truly appreciate any advice or comment! Thanks guys!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    That's great....you are seeing spinal specialist!

    When I started with my pain management doctor, also neurologist, one of the first tests he did with me was EMG. For me...test was good, didn't hurt...and it revealed information to doctor about other spinal issues involvement.
    Through my primary doctor I had X-ray and MRI already.

    You said, "How do I get to do them?"........ As a rule, doctors don't like to be told...I want this med or this treatment, etc.... And I don't blame them.
    My experience with my doctors is that they are open to my questions and answer me with the whys or why nots.
    Early on, I did ask my PM doc one time, "what do you think about acupuncture?"
    He responded with, " You can try it." (Ineffective for me) He did say no to chiropractic for me.

    If you explain your already stated reasons about meds...fear of addiction...and PT expensive out of pocket and you felt no relief..... I find doctors very accommodating. There are meds that are not narcotic and may help lessen some of your discomfort or shaking.

    Clear communication so important for doctor and patient...so you're both on same page.

    Let us know how it goes for you!
    Good luck, lolabee!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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