Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford Restores Spine Altered By Scoliosis


Jerry Stark figures his back problems might have begun about 20 years ago when he lifted something "and I lifted it wrong," he said. Decades later, adult scoliosis had altered his spine into a twisted, bent version of its once-straight self, taking with it any semblance of a normal life.

Before the orthopaedic surgery that restored his spine to a more normal curvature, Stark lived with pain he counted as an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Now, he can stand straight enough to look himself in the mirror again.

I kept thinking, 'You can exist this way. It's not going to get worse.' Then you look in the mirror and it is worse. And you know you have to do something about it.

-Jerry Stark, patient, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Back pain is a health complaint so common that the National Institutes of Health estimate it may have visited as many as 85 percent of adults in the United States at least once in a lifetime. The causes are many. Some of us may injure our backs with one bad lift of a heavy box. Age-related changes to the spine's system of bones and cartilage bring their own type of pain.

With these minimally invasive techniques, where we can achieve the same amount of correction, we can minimize the amount of blood loss and the amount of anesthesia - really enhances recovery.

-Ivan Cheng, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

With steady devotion to his post-surgical physical therapy and regular exercise, Stark has regained such mobility that those who meet him now have a hard time believing the degree of his previous disability, he says.

  • Know how to lift safely. Never bend over an object at the waist; lower your body by bending at the knees. Keep the object close to the body.
  • Good posture also helps to reduce strain on the spine. When sitting, tip weight forward on the pelvis instead of leaning back; draw chin back instead of jutting jaw forward.
  • Exercise in ways that strengthen your back muscles, warming up slowly before beginning. Developing core muscles also supports a strong back.
  • A supportive mattress and pillow you sleep on can be beneficial to spine health.
  • Think about what kind of shoes you wear—and how you carry a purse or shoulder bag. Wearing high heels and carrying a heavy bag on the same shoulder can contribute to stress on the spine.
  • Alternate between sitting and standing during the day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

I'm so glad I did it. It's like a new life—and I feel good when I look in the mirror now.

-Jerry Stark, patient, Stanford Hospital & Clinics
  • Physiotherapy, including massage, whirlpool baths, ultrasound
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Posture adjustment
  • Surgery, including fusion, decompression, microdiscectomy