Straighten Up! Aging Backs Turning into Scoliosis

There are two types of adult scoliosis, one starts as a teen and progresses into adulthood
Published: Aug. 11, 2023 at 11:40 AM EDT
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DENVER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Scoliosis is not just for kids. In fact, seven million people have been diagnosed with it. There are two types of adult scoliosis – one starts as a teen and progresses into adulthood, the other develops later in life and is related to osteoarthritis and spinal degeneration. Doctors are helping to straighten things out, so older adults can live their golden years pain free.

Cynthia Friedland surrounds herself with color.

But Cynthia’s days turned grey when the pain of scoliosis forced her to quit her job as an ICU nurse.

“I couldn’t function. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t lie down,” Explains Cynthia.

Seventy percent of adults over the age of 60 have a curved spine. Twenty percent have curves greater than 20 degrees.

Shay Bess, MD Spine Surgeon at Denver International Spine Center says, “As one ages, then the joints in the discs then become incompetent, which can then cause scoliosis.”

Cynthia’s spine was pitched to the side and forward 40 percent. She had tried many procedures and medications. Fusion was a last resort.

Doctor Bess says, “I think at some point, people run out of gas and they’re miserable.”

Cynthia says, “They cut me open from chest to groin and then in the back, from the back all the way down.”

During an 11-hour spinal deformity surgery, surgeon Shay Bess fused five segments of Cynthia’s spine together, bringing it back into alignment. Doctor Bess says there is no age limit and has corrected spines like Cynthia’s for people well into their 80′s.

It worked for Cynthia, and now she is doing things she never thought she would ever get the chance to do.

“I would never have thought about playing the piano before, but now, I can sit at a piano bench and play the piano.”  Says Cynthia.

And she is now living life one hundred percent pain-free.

Doctor Bess says pain is not the only reason people are opting to fix their backs later in life. In several studies he has led with the International Spine Study Group, he found that self-image, not pain, is the leading factor in people opting to do surgery in their 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, and by straightening their backs, not only are they making them look better, which helps their self-image, it also eases their pain and improves their mental health.