Should I Have Scoliosis Surgery?
The most common question I get asked is ‘Should I have scoliosis surgery?”
So I wanted to dedicate a blog post and YouTube video around this topic, to give my honest experiences, and hopefully help people who may be in the position of deciding whether to have scoliosis surgery or not.
Every case of scoliosis is different and so I can’t really answer that question for other people. However, I can give some of my own reasons as to why I personally had the surgery.
Scoliosis surgery is a HUGE surgery with risks, and the decision to have this type of major surgery should NOT be made lightly. It took me many number of years to make a decision, as for a long time, I just didn’t know what to do.
I can talk about my experiences, but ultimately you need to do your own research and make the best decision for your situation.
Why did I have Scoliosis Surgery?
The main reason I decided to have scoliosis surgery is that I had a SEVERE spinal curvature.
Scoliosis curves are measured by something called a cobb angle. Most people without scoliosis would measure a Cobb angle of between 0-10 degrees. In scoliosis, anything over 50 degrees is considered severe, and would be a case for surgical intervention. This is because larger curves are more likely to progress over time. My curve was well over 80 degrees, and was considered as a risk to progress as I aged.
And so because of this, I was terrified of the future. What would happen if my scoliosis continued to progress when I was older? And what kind of quality of life I would have? Especially as it was already a large curve.
I would say, whether or not someone should consider scoliosis surgery or not, should depend a lot on:
- The severity of the scoliosis
- Age when diagnosed
- Risks around progression
These are all things that a specialist can advise on, as not all scoliosis curves require surgery, or progress, especially less severe curves.
So preventing progression was the main reason that I decided on surgery. Yes, I had daily pain, yes I hated how I looked. But those were not (and should not) be reasons alone to have scoliosis surgery.
Should I have Scoliosis Surgery to get rid of pain?
Scoliosis surgery is not guaranteed to get rid of pain. It should not be the sole reason for deciding on scoliosis surgery. Scoliosis surgery can definitely help alleviate pain, and in my case it did. But it can cause new/different pains that you didn’t have before.
Spinal fusion limits flexibility (depending on how long the fusion is). The surgery itself can also cause nerve damage in the back and legs. In my case, my pain overall is better than before my surgery. But this may not always be the case. My pain has not gone though, it’s just different. I do suffer with a lot more nerve problems now than I did before surgery and my back is mostly numb.
I have made a video on my types of scoliosis pain pre and post surgery and how I manage my pain.
Another thing to note here is how long scoliosis surgery recovery takes. It is major surgery. It takes a long time to recover and it took me years to feel more like myself again. You will need ALOT of support, physio and rehabilitation. The older you are, the longer recovery will take.
Recovery from this surgery hands down is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I don’t think people realise how tough it can be and how low it can make you feel on the hardest days. You need to be aware of this before going into the surgery.
Now I’m fully recovered, I can do anything I want. I have achieved some amazing things post surgery, but it took me YEARS to build up again. And now I really appreciate every moment!
Should I have Scoliosis Surgery to improve my appearance?
With scoliosis surgery, the goal is to straighten and de-rotate the spine, and so there will likely be some cosmetic improvements. In my opinion though, this should definitely NOT be the main reason to have scoliosis surgery. It is a huge surgery, and not worth the risks if the sole reason is cosmetic.
I did see cosmetic improvements post-surgery but I will admit, I was devastated when I realised that my back still didn’t look 100% “normal” post surgery. As I realised in that moment, that it never would. I still have a curved spine, in many severe cases, they can’t always straighten the spine fully, as it’s too dangerous.
I still have shoulder blade that sticks out, ribs that are rotated and an uneven waist. My spine is not straight and never will be. It is a lot better than it was though. In some cases they can pretty much straighten the spine, but in most cases there will be some curvature and/or rotation left.
So those are my experiences and thoughts on the question “should I have scoliosis surgery?”
It’s a difficult one to answer, as the decision is very individual. All I would say is, do your research, speak to your doctors and as many people as you can that have had the surgery and make your own decision based on what’s best for you.
For me, the benefits far outweighed the negatives/risks, and I do not regret my decision. Yes I still get pain, yes my spine isn’t straight. But I know that it can’t progress. And that alone has eliminated the anxiety I had that consumed my life and in my opinion, makes it worth it for me. 🙂
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experiences, please leave me a comment below.
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Lots of Love,
I had scoliosis surgery in 2010 and blog about my experiences living with scoliosis. My aim is to raise awareness of scoliosis and help and inspire others with the condition.
2 thoughts on “Should I Have Scoliosis Surgery?”
I am a 48 year old female with a 45 degree curve in my spine. I am now experiencing pain on the side where the shoulder blade sticks out. I saw a surgeon a few weeks ago, and he is encouraging me to get surgery. I have so many reservations. I run 3 to 5 times a week, and I work out. I feel like the surgery will keep me from doing these things.
Hi Erin, Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is a tough situation to be in, I empathise and know what it’s like. It is a big surgery, and yes it will take a long while to recover. After recovery there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to run and exercise again, but it will take time to build back up again. It’s a big decision I know. I wish you all the best with whatever you decide x