Spine Straightening Surgery 101
What does spine straightening surgery entail, and who should consider it?
The human spine isn’t designed to be perfectly straight, and most of us have variations. But certain conditions can cause enough pain and mobility challenges to warrant a surgical solution. Let’s dive in a few basic facts to get the story straight on spine straightening surgery.
Scoliosis is one of the most common conditions.
We all experienced the scoliosis checks in school growing up. Why? Because scoliosis is a very common but complex spinal deformity. It creates a side curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine, which can look like a slight S-shape and lead to uneven hips and shoulders.]
Often scoliosis is mild, but deeper degrees of curvature benefit from intervention. Braces are the best choice for adolescents who have a spinal curve between 25 degrees to 40 degrees. Bracing slows the curve temporarily. When does surgery become the right option? More severe curves over 40 degrees are often considered for scoliosis surgery.
Kyphosis (or “hunchback”) also benefits from spine straightening.
Kyphosis is a rounding of the spine. It occurs when the vertebrae in the upper part of the back become wedge-shaped, causing the spine to curve forward more than usual. There are a few different types of kyphosis—the condition is often related to posture and worsens with age. Complications can occur in more severe cases, including an irreversible hunch in the back, persistent back pain, breathing difficulties and weakness or numbness in the arms and legs.
Try braces, exercises or other non-invasive therapies as a first step.
It’s always wise to start with non-invasive techniques to ease spine curvatures before opting for surgery. Bracing helps train the spine to grow into the correct posture, but braces are only useful if the spine is still growing. Exercises like stretching and physical therapy strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, which can reduce further curving. Stretching also alleviates back pain by releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the spine and increasing blood flow and lubrication in the joints.
Surgery doesn’t make the spine perfectly straight.
Surgery is a solution for reducing spinal curving and back pain. If you and your doctor have decided that surgery is the best option, be aware of the process and limitations. Spinal straightening is considered a complex spinal reconstruction surgery because it involves a major portion of the spine. The name might be a bit of a misnomer though: the goal of spinal straightening is to make sure the curve doesn’t get worse, but surgery does not perfectly straighten the spine. The procedure uses metallic implants to correct some of the curvature and places a bone graft in the area of the curve. The rods and screws hold the spine in the correct position until the bone graft consolidates and permanently fuses the vertebrae together to prevent further curvature. The result is less pain and more mobility.
Recovery takes a few weeks.
Complex spinal reconstruction operations usually takes several hours. With advances in technology, patients can now be released from the hospital within a week of surgery and often do not require post-operative bracing. Most patients are able to return to school or work in 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery, and many can resume all pre-operative activities within 4 to 6 months.
Back & Spine Consultation with Dr. Prpa
If you’ve tried everything but still experience pain that’s affecting your quality of life, it’s time to talk to a specialist about spinal straightening surgery. For years, Dr. Branko Prpa has been the leading back specialist and spine surgeon in Wisconsin. With offices in the Kenosha and Milwaukee areas, Dr. Branko Prpa is well positioned to help you reclaim your quality of life. Make an appointment at the Branko PRPA M.D. medical office that’s closest to your location today.