Scoliosis Treatment Improves Years of Back Pain
As a cheerleader, gymnast, basketball player and tennis player, Gwen Williams cherished the active lifestyle she had as a teen despite her scoliosis diagnosis in 5th grade.
However, once she entered her adult years, her back pain became debilitating, especially being on her feet day after day for her sales job at a car dealership.
"I experienced shortness of breath every time I got home from work," says Gwen, 50, of Norfolk. "I was scared to lay flat. The pain kept getting worse because my spine was curving more and more."
Searching for a Relief
Gwen, whose scoliosis had not yet been treated, met with her primary care doctor to start looking for a solution to her pain. Her doctor ordered an MRI and referred her to a neurosurgeon. She turned to Dr. Dana Adkins of Sentara Neurosurgery Specialists for the next step.
Dr. Adkins recommended spinal fusion to correct Gwen's scoliosis. During the procedure, joints are removed between the vertebrae to make the spine more malleable. The spine is straightened and held in place with rods and screws. Bone grafts fill the space between the vertebrae so they will fuse in one straight bone as they heal.
Gwen, who was 46 at the time, scheduled her surgery in February 2016 at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. She stayed in the hospital for 11 days, heavily sedated at first but then began moving with the help of nurses and a physical therapist.
Once discharged, Gwen's aunt and a dear friend took care of her and the household chores as she healed. After two weeks, she was cleared to started PT again.
"I did everything I was told by Dr. Adkins, the pain management doctor and the physical therapist," says Gwen, who also had aqua and massage therapy. "The recovery was long, but I knew I was going to get through it."
"The curve of Ms. Williams's spine was so severe it was affecting her ability to breathe," said Dr. Adkins. "I will never forget the first morning after her surgery when she told me she was able to have a conversation with her mother over the phone for the first time in years because of the improvement in her lung capacity."
A Second Surgery
Gwen continued to make progress but still coped with pain in her neck and shoulders. In April 2017, Dr. Adkins recommended a second surgery to fuse vertebrae in her neck.
Two years later, Gwen continues to go to PT and religiously does home exercises.
"The shortness of breath is gone," she says. "I sleep a whole lot better than I did before. I still have some pain, but it's made a big difference in my quality of life.
Gwen has since left her job at the car dealership and now enjoys spending time with her family and friends, going to church, traveling and reading. She is grateful to Dr. Adkins for all he's done to help her.
Dr. Adkins says, "The most rewarding part of medicine for me is seeing these positive changes in people lives after an operation."
"Dr. Adkins is the best neurosurgeon there is out there," she says. "I thank him every day."