What is Scheuermann's Disease?
Put in simple terms Scheuermann's Disease is a not a diesase, it's a misnomer. It is a condition that occurs during adolesence when the spine's verterbae grow at different rates during a growth spurt ( This causes the vertebrae to become wedge shaped. This wedge shape creates a curvature in the upper spine, known as kyphosis (or more negatively as a hunchbck). As far as I know, there is no evidence that the condition is genetic (although, personally, I've seen it run on my maternal side) and no it isn't corrected by simply "standing/sitting straight."
As a person ages, the curvature can increase. A normal person has a 20-40 degree curvature. Once the curvature hits 100 degress it can begin to affect organ function as well as lifestyle. According to the aforementioned website, 1-8% of people are diagnosed with this condition.
The spinal health doctor took some x-rays and did some basic in-office tests, like the too familiar Scoliosis test. My x-rays came back with a diagnosis of Scheuermann's Disease. The average person has about a 40 degree kyphosis, mine was 90 degrees! In addition, I had lordosis, the bottom part of my spine pushed in to keep my head and pelvis aligned. I also had osteophytes (bone spurs) along my spine. The recommendation was physical therapy or a consult with a spinal surgeon. I am very active: daily yoga, plyometrics 2-3x a week, and daily walks with the dog, so I decided to take the consult with a spinal surgeon. The spinal surgeon confirmed what I basically already knew from my own research. My curvature had slowly gotten worse over the last 20 years. I didn't need to have surgery right away, but it was recommended if I'd like to lead a healthy, active lifestyle when I'm older.
I finally scheduled a surgrey date for March 10, 2016. On Februrary 26, 2016 I had all of my Pre-Admissions Testings and another meeting with my doctor. My procedure will be the same as someone with Scoliosis. I will have a spinal fusion from T2 (Thoraic) to L2 (Lumbar). My scar will be about 18 inches long. When all is said and done I will have 24 screws and 2 rods, one on either side of my spine. My doctor encouraged me to continue my yoga, weight/HIIT, daily walk routine up until the day before surgery. Post-Op walking will be strongly encouraged and over time I will need to maintain my core strength, flexibility, and endurance in order to keep pain managed and help my body function at optimal levels. I already have several Post-Op goals: driving an hour for my nephew's half-birthday in June, attending--and possibly light dancing--at a colleague's wedding in July, and returning to yoga as soon as possible. I am both nervous and excited for this operation. I am strong. I am healthy. And everything works out for my highest good. :)
Surgery Post-Op 3-Week Appointment
I had my first post-op appointment at the 3-week mark. The doctor was very pleased with my healing progress and the amount of strength I have gained in such a short amount of time. I started with about a 90 degree kyphosis and now am at about 70-75 degrees. If I had been diagnosed younger and had a more flexible spine, I could have had up to a 50 degree correction, but I am a FIRM believer everything happens for a reason. The procedure itself has changed so much over the years and my own outlook on physical and mental wellness, that I'm not sure the surgery would have been as successful for me 17 years ago. The doctor even gave me clearance to return to certain activities (like driving and using the ellipitical) as I feel ready. However, I still have a lift restriction for another 6 weeks which is difficult because I like to pick up my furbaby (all 58lbs. of her) and snuggle. The best part of my appointment was visiting two of the nurses who cared for me during my 5-days in the hopsital, Angie and Damien. It was so great to see the smiles on their faces and it was hard for me not to cry in my gratitude! My affirmations have helped immensely in my healing since post-op day 1: I am healthy. I am strong. I am healed. The Universe always knows what is for your highest good and sometiems you just need to let go and trust.
The Beginning of My Story
I have been self-conscious about my back since I was a teen. I remember in middle school seeing a picture where I was sitting poolside and my back was severely hunched. My mother always told me to sit/stand straight, but it still ddn't make it go away. Eventually, I went to a spine doctor, but he told us it was nothing to worry about.
Fast forward 20 years later and I was having my daily home yoga practice, ending in corpse pose and followed by meditation. When I had a horrible episode of stiffness, so debilitating that I had to use the coffee table to help me stand up. I couldn't bend and I hobbled to my bed (which is rather high) until the pain luckily subsided. This scared me. I've always been self-conscious about my back's appearance, the kyphosis as well as how it pushed on my ribcage causing it to jut out. Forget doing yoga in a public class, bending postures make my kyphosis even more noticeable. Regardless I've always led an active lifestyle from running to home yoga to even getting my brown belt in taekwondo. But I'd begun to have pins and needles, as well as numbess during certain activites. I decided to contact a spinal health doctor.
An active lifestyle is very important to me. I eventually want to get my yoga certification. Currently, I am very flexible, relatively fit, and don't have kids. With back surgery there is a lift restriction for quite a while of only 5lbs. I couldn't imagine not being able to pick up my own kids! It is going to be difficult to not even pick up my nephew, especially for his half-birthday (or Unbirthday if you've read my children's book) in June! So even though I am completely terrified. I have decided to move forward with scheduling back surgery in 2016 in the hopes that I will be able to maintain an active lifestyle for the rest of my 30s, 40s, and onward.
Surgery was successful! It lasted 6 hours with no complications, besides some nausea in the PACU. I was in the hospital for 5 days and it was kind of difficult to imagine that the pain would eventually subside and be manageable, but I am writing this 18 days later and I have to say it is a big difference from 3 weeks ago. I am very thankful for the staff at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital on the 4th floor and to my surgeon's staff for making me feel empowered. They encouraged me throughout and told me I was making exceptional progress. The first week and a half home was rough and I spent most of it sleeping--in fact I kind of lost a week of time between St. Patrick's Day and Easter. Easter happened to be beautiful, sunny, and 75 in Cleveland and I walked almost 3/4 of a mile--my second walk and time outside since my discharge. I have my first post-op appointment this Friday 04.01.16, so an update on my progress will soon follow!
Surgery Post-Op 10-Week Appointment
I had my 10-week post-op appointment earlier this week. It was supposed to be a 9-week post-op appointment, but life got in the way with the death of m grandfather. So, it was postponed a week. Almost 3 weeks ago I stopped my pain medications so I could get back to driving. I was feeling great anyways. It was a belabored process as I had some withdrawal symptoms (namely the opiate itchy skin). At this same time I also had a severe skin reaction to an unknown source across my upper back. While that reaction was being treated with topical steroids and a single injection, I ended up having a reaction to my treatment on top of whatever withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing. Add to that a funeral and my dog having toe amputation surgery, and I was pretty much a mess for 3 plus weeks. Finally, things seem to be recalibrating. My itchiness is virtually gone and I can pretty much sleep through the night without waking up 4-5 times. My dog is doing great and thanks to my daily yoga and meditation practice, my pain is very little to non-existent. I mean, I am aware I had back surgery and have limitations, but it is not pain as much as tightness and lack of flexibility.
Luckily, the doctor was also happy with my progress. He told me very few adult patients feel as good as I do this early on. I go back at the end of summer for my 24-25 week post-op appointment! This has been a journey and for a while there life kind of exploded in my face, but I think my positive attitude toward my body (and my mind) has set me up for success thus far!