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Posted in: Back pain, Scoliosis, and Surgery.

17 yrs post Scoliosis surgery pain

Started by Melissa19 on 04/30/2011 8:11pm

I had scoliosis corrective surgery using Harrington rods 17 years ago. I have 2 beautiful healthy children 6 and 3 yrs old, but since my last child I have been living with back pain. Typically heat and massage along with muscle relaxers and Tylenol the pain has been manageable but it has been getting worse. in the past 2 months or so the pain is spreading and am now getting shooting pain/tingles from mid back down my legs. Massages are still great but the next day it's like I never had one.

I have not seen my surgeon in almost 10 years due to moving from the US to Canada. I finally went to see my family doctor and her exact words were "you probably know more about scoliosis and it's procedures than I do" which definately did not do much for my confidence. She is however going to research who would be the best doctor to send me to but she does know there is no one in our area (Windsor, ON) that specializes in scoliosis so I will have to go about 2-4hours away and it will take 6 months to a year to be seen. I really am not sure if I can last this long.

Has anyone else experienced similar issues and have any advice on what I can do to survive until I speak to a doctor that knows something.

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6 Responses


I have 5 disks fused T11-L3) with a harrington rod over 30 years ago. I have had back pain all my life too. My heart goes out to you!

My back pain became much worse last year with tingling, shooting pain and burning sharp pain. The first thing I would recommend is getting xrays and an MRI so that the doctor can tell what is causing the pain. The pain should not be caused from the scoliosis now unless the harrington rods are not functioning.

The pain I have now is from arthritis from the disks below my fusion having been overworked for so many years. I have found the most relief from a pain clinic. My doctor has used steroid injections, nerve blocks and radiowave treatment that burns the nerve endings (lasts for up to 18 months or until nerve endings grow back. This works well for disks that are worn from over use directly below the fusion.

Lidoderm patches are very helpful too. They have lidocaine on a sticky patch that goes directly on your skin where you are experiencing pain. They can stay on for 12 hours and then are discarded. They help numb the painful area and they aren't addictive like so many other types of pain relievers.

I have also found some help with physical therapy. I've also tried acupuncture, although it didn't help me. Good Luck!


hi hope ur feeling better. My 17 yr old daughter has scoloisis and one curve is a 28 degree angle the other is a 38 degree curve and we were sent to see a speciaist who sent us to a "better surgeon" who told us that it is just cosmetic and pain free I was in shock becuz they have put her on muscle relaxers and he put her on a anti inflamatory if u can please let me know if urs was pain free and what angle ur curves were ty vm


Melissa19... I was very surprised to read that you had surgery with a Harrington Rod as late as 1994, it was my understanding that they haven't been used since the 1980's. The rods were found to work ok for about 20 years but then many people began having problems with pain...this was due to degeneration below the fusion. Where was your surgery done? I can't believe that they were still using that procedure. Anyway...

I also had scoliosis surgery using Harrington rods but it was in 1975. I didn't have any real problems until around 1996 when I started experiencing low back pain. The pain worsened and I had numerous procedures, (spinal injections, PT, massage, pain managment clinic, medication, more spinal injections), and many diagnostic tests. In 2000 I had fusion at L5-S1 for unstable spondylolisthesis and they found degenerative disc disease in all of my discs below the rod. The surgery did eliminate the shooting pain down my legs, but nothing has gotten rid of the rest of my pain and I now just manage it, but I did discover that I had Flatback Syndrome.

When I found this information out was in 2004, there was not much info at all about it and what little there was stated that only people who had Harrington rod surgeries got it...now I see that they say more people may have the problem. Flatback is a condition due to the way the H-rod fusion was done; I initially had pain but after 6-8 years of pain I then noticed that I was having trouble standing up straight and I couldn't walk for more then 5 minutes without great pain. The leaning caused incredible fatigue and pain and if I hadn't had additional surgery then eventually I could be bent over to an extent that I ended up in a wheelchair. The surgery for this was very complicated, it was done in three procedures and I was in the hospital for a month. I am now fused from the top of the H-rod to my pelvis and my movement is very limited. I still have pain 24/7 but I can walk and function a lot more then before.

If you are going to see a doctor then I would find a way to go to the best...it is definitely worth it. I saw Dr. Frank Rand in Boston at New England Baptist Hospital and he is one of the best in the country. He is part of the Harvard group and helped develop the procedures for this surgery...he sees people from all over the world. Also, he is more interested in patients then money, my only insurance at the time this was done was Medicare because I was no longer able to work. He didn't care, he didn't even charge me money beyond what they paid!! Of course, my surgery was in 2005 and he was still perfecting the procedure so perhaps my value was in research. Whatever...don't go to someone who is not an adult scoliosis specialist, it is not worth it. I'm not sure how far you are from Boston, but New York and PA have some good docs also. If you aren't having any problem leaning forward then flatback is probably not your problem, but pain is definitely something to take care of.

Good luck. I'm sorry that I wrote so much...I tend to do that. Please, make sure that you go to an adult scoliosis specialist. Oh, I also have two great children, 21 & 18 now.


Hello you must had had your surgery around the same time as i did!
I am now off work in alot of pain and seeing a speciallist in regard to pain management and how to treat my worsening condition.
I have developed kyphosis as well due to my lower back unable to compensate for my curve.
I must admet our NHS has been very good so far once your in the system. I hope you can find someone suitable and as close as possible ....
I believe surgery has changed alot since we had ours but I hope i wont need any more i think il try as many alternatoives as possible before i have to resort to a big op again, let me know how you get on over there!


thank you everyone for sharing your stories.
Since my last post I have had an xray which states the intervertebral disc space is narrowed at the L5-S1 level suggestive of degenerative disc disease. So now the doctor is actually taking me seriously and has added Tremadol to my other meds of flexeril and naproxen, she has ordered a CT and I had my first physical therapy session today. The saddest part of this is that no one called from my doctors office to tell me this, I actually called them about 4 weeks ago and the nurse told me the xray was fine. I only found out something was wrong when I called to make another appointment because my pain is getting worse!
She has found me a specialist in London ON a Dr. Bailey who is supposed to be the best in Ontario so I still have no appointment date. I have called his office and they get 400 referrals a day so it take 6-8 weeks just to process the referalls and then another 6-8months before an appointment. Because my temporary family doctor is a moron she filled out the wrong referall so they had to send a new one which took 4 weeks to get back to them. SOOO I am at the bottom of the stack again! My plan is if I havent heard from them by the time I have my CT scan I am going to begin harrassing them and letting them know I am in very severe pain. It appears I am going to have to be the champion of my own health here.
I wish I didnt wait so long to seek medical care, I guess its a mom thing to put our own health at the bottom of the to-do list.
Im really nervous about the narrowing of my discs and would really appreciate any info that may be out there regarding this condition and harrington rods.

In regards to your questions..... I had my harrington rods placed at Huntington Hospital in Long Island New York by Dr. Arnold Schwartz (hes amazing!!) my rods go from T4 to L3. My curves were painless at 54 and 25 degrees before surgery. I had tried chiropractic adjustments, and various kinds of braces ( i cant remember their names as i was only 10and 11) prior to surgery. My parents chose to do surgery as the curves were begining to affect my lung capacity and I chose surgery because I didnt want to look crooked anymore.


Hello Melissa 19. You sound so much like me it is scary..lol I had my rods put in Novemeber of 1991, so I am coming up on 20 years. I was only 13 when I had the surgery done at Shriners Hospital in Spokane Washington. Doctor William Osbold did my surgery and he was one of the best in the Northwest at the time. I dont remember what my curvature was but I remember it was not good. Almost my entire spine is fuesed except on the bottom and that is the place that is giving me the most pain now and between my shoulder blades is a constant burn.
I have been fighting to get into a specialist for a year now and I finally have an appointment on the 19th of this month. I can not wait! After being on Strong pain killers for the last 3 years, my body does not respond to the pain meds anymore, Advil and tyleonal are a joke....they have zero effect on me. So my only option is finally seeing a spine specialist.
Keep us posted on how your doing, hope you get in soon :)