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Avatar universal

Back Pain 15 years post spinal fusion for scoliosis


I was wondering if anyone has any input for me.  I'm 28 years old with moderate to occasionally severe back pain.  I decided to write because I just spent 45 minutes in the kitchen trying to cook a Thanksgiving dessert and my back started aching badly.  The fact that I can't even cook for my family without the pain is alarming to me.

When I was 12  in 1991, I had a C-D fusion for a 60 degree scoliosis curve.  The surgery was a success, reducing my curve to 32 degrees or so, and I did very well for a long time with absolutely no back pain at all.  However, for the last 3 years or so, the back pain has started and gotten progressively worse.  Perhaps it's due to starting law school and sitting hunched over my books for hours on end, I do not know.  Anyhow, the pain is unbearable sometimes, and usually brought on by being in any one position - sitting, lying down, standing - for longer than 45 minutes or so.  So that means any time I'm shopping my back ends the trip prematurely, when I'm sleeping sometimes I can't stand to lie down another minute (despite going through 2 different expensive mattresses and countless pillows), and the absolute worst is when I'm sitting with my law school books trying to study for finals (like now).  This pain occurs every day on and off and all over my back.  Sometime it aches, but often it's a burning type of pain.

I've consulted with my general practitioner about this.  He took X-rays and referred me to a spinal surgeon specialist.  Both told me that nothing can be done, that I'm too young to be on a pain management program, and that physical therapy is my only option.

Is this true?  Is there really nothing that can be done to alleviate this pain, which I can only assume will get progressively worse as I age? Why am I too young to go on pain management?  I've taken Vicodin occasionally for the pain and it gives me incredible relief.

I went to physical therapy, but basically was shown a bunch of pilates type exercises.  Instead of doing those, I've been working with a personal trainer to focus more on overall fitness, integrating some core strengthening with weight training.  Unfortunately, I still have back pain.  I also know that I do not have the time or patience to do the pilates exercises several times a day exactly as prescribed.  Because I'm not following these instructions, is this pain my fault?

The thought of having to endure this pain for decades into the future is disheartening to say the least.  Often I just break down and cry in frustration.  I feel like I could have a bright future in a legal career ahead of me but I do not want this horrible back pain to hold me back.  The thought of working a full 8 hour day in an office sitting in the same chair all day SCARES me.

Anyway ... Any input, thoughts, or advice would be VERY much appreciated.

4 Responses
Avatar universal
please correct your posture while studying so that you do not sit in one postion for too long. You can start with simple back exercises which will be easy to do, also a hot water bottle might help.
Avatar universal
What is your body weight?If you could reduce a few kilos it will help your back pain.Do not smoke or drink till your symptoms subside.Consult your dietician and have a nice balanced diet.
Avatar universal
Thanks for the comments.  I don't smoke or drink much, and my body weight is 133 (25% body fat) so I don't think that's the problem.

Anyway I talked to my personal trainer and he said I should incorporate my physical therapy exercises into my workouts, so I guess I'll just have to give that a good shot as it seems like that's the only solution.

Thanks again and have a wonderful holiday season.
Avatar universal
Hi- Our stories are similar. I  too am 28 years old, I had 51 T/49L curves. I had the surgery when I was 13 in 1992. My spine was only corrected to 28ish at the time because my spine was twisted at the bottom. Over the next year it moved back to 34T/32L. I too have a very hard time staying in one position for an extended period of time. My senior year of college (02), I had to go to PT because I could not sit in classes all day in those horrible chairs. Granted I was not in law school, but my teacher education cohort met for 8 hours daily on top of research papers etc about 4 hours outside of school. Writing and typing made my shoulder blade (my rib hump on the right side) ache horribly. I can only imagine how you are feeling right now. Sometimes- even now the pain starts in the very center of my back and goes into my right shoulder blade and into my right arm. Very uncomfortable- that burning pain you described. I even remember lying in the floor one day during class I was in so much pain. That was the day I decided to see a doctor. He gave me flexeril- which knocked me out - so I decided not to take it- or see him- anymore. It did me no good to be asleep! Only in the most severe pain will I take them. I started going to PT, but the exercises made it worse. I couldnt keep doing the exercises because it felt like my shoulder blade was going to rip out- so I dont say that I can blame you there. They did give me a TENS unit- like a small portible estim. It is really nice. It helps to relax my muscles. That is probably the thing that helps me the most. I don't know if you could get your hands on one- I got mine six years ago and I really like it.
As far as exercise, in highschool- I was very athletic, but as I got older, my body did not enjoy the same level of activity! Payback for all those years of softball, soccer, track, and cross country. I got a treadmill - and the shock absorbtion of 30%+ is very helpful. It makes running/jogging much better with basically no pain.
I bought a Tempurpedic mattress, that helps, but I have to sleep on my back. Heating pads sometimes work- but only when it is mild.  
When I got my Masters, the pain was worse. Again, all of the sitting, typing, writing. I have to wear tennis shoes to work and I have to adjust and move around often. I have heard that swimming is really good, but I just dont have access.
I too am worried about the future. I am trying to get pregnant, so the worry of that is a little scary. I have seen a lot on the internet, posts from people who have had babies- so that is helpful. I do worry about how if my back pain can change and worsen so much in 15 years, how it will be when I am 50 years old? I think that you will do just fine - dont let this change what you want to do. You can always set aside breaks for yourself- just a couple of minutes to get up and walk around. You have to modify. And if you are open and upfront with your boss, and dont overuse it as an excuse- they should understand.
Good luck!!
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