Harrington rod Posted in: Treatment

Surgery is often hailed as the be-all and end-all cure for scoliosis. And the Harrington rod is used in the majority of scoliosis surgeries performed in the U.S. It’s been used on idiopathic scoliosis patients since the 1960s, and, though the surgical techniques and equipment have evolved, the gist of the surgery remains the same.

How the Harrington Rod Works

Scoliosis spinal fusion surgery is performed by inserting a Harrington rod with a ratcheting system along the concave part of the curve and attaching it to the spine with two hooks (one at the top of the curve and the other at the bottom). The surgeon then uses the ratcheting system to stretch and straighten the spine before fusing it (often replacing the spinal discs with bone grafts from the patient’s hip) into that straightened position.

Due to the nature and purpose of a spinal fusion, that portion of the spine will not be able to bend as it did before. The spinal discs are removed and the vertebra in the curve are all fused together to straighten the curve. Spinal fusions can take weeks to take hold and fully form. The Harrington rod is able to support the spine while it’s fusing and provides ongoing support in later years.

The procedure is available (and recommended by most surgeons) for anyone with a Cobb angle higher than 45 degrees. However, it’s generally considered unwise to operate on children still growing. Growing spines have a much higher risk of the scoliosis substantially increasing above and below the fused areas once the surgery is completed (this is called the ‘Crankshaft’ phenomenon). Plus, it’s possible to outgrow the rod if the surgery is performed before you’re finished growing. In that case, you’d need to have another surgery to remove and replace the rod, which is no easy feat.

Complications and Risks

By its very nature, the surgery to implant a Harrington rod into the spine is incredibly intrusive. To make room for the rod and to prepare for the fusion, the surgeon removes the spinal discs, and the nearby muscles and soft tissue take a beating. The ratcheting system is screwed into your vertebras and pulled to forcefully bend your spine in the opposite direction and then fuse it in that position.

In any major surgery, you’re at risk for severe blood loss, urinary infections from catheterization, pancreatitis and obstructive bowel dysfunction from immobilization after surgery. Aside from those, the list of possible complications for scoliosis surgery includes:

  • Infection
  • Bending or breaking of the Harrington rod
  • Fusion not taking (called ‘pseudoarthrosis’)
  • Curve increasing in later months/years despite the surgery
  • Flatback (a painful condition where the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar spine lose their curve after the thoracic curve is straightened)
  • Neurological complications such as partial or total paraplegia, quadriplegia or a peripheral nerve deficit (which often manifests as an abnormal or loss of sensation in your legs)
  • Additional surgeries to fix complications or failures due to a trauma (like a car accident or bad fall)

Harrington rod

This is an image of an actual Harrington rod that was removed from a patient’s spine after it broke, just six months after the surgery. You can see the break in the middle of the rod on the left.

There’s no coming back from this surgery. You can remove the Harrington rod, but you can’t un-fuse a fused spine. And this surgery will permanently affect the way you move on a daily basis. Many patients are surprised to find out how much their mobility has decreased after the surgery. Studies have shown that the overall mobility decreases by 25 percent after the surgery. And with the loss of mobility in one section of the spine, more pressure is placed on the other sections. This can cause increased pain, discomfort and an increase in those affected curves.

The absence of spinal discs could also end up being a drawback. Without spinal discs, any major jolt could cause an accelerated amount of pain and damage to your spine. Spinal discs exist to soften those blows, so an incident like a minor car crash would be much more agonizing for someone with a spinal fusion.

Not a Cure

The Harrington rod does straighten the Cobb angle in most cases, however, it can’t be considered a cure because it fails to address the underlying causes of scoliosis. It takes a curved spine and replaces it with an unnaturally straight and inflexible one.

Because those underlying causes weren’t addressed with the surgery, it can’t prevent the spine from curving down the road. Many patients experience an increased Cobb angle five to ten years down the road, despite the Harrington rod and the spinal fusion. It also doesn’t always put a stop to the symptoms that many scoliosis patients experience. Any pain you’re experiencing will likely not disappear after the surgery.

Benefits of Alternative Treatments

There is a time and a place for scoliosis surgery. For extremely severe cases, where the Cobb angle is over 80 degrees, surgery could be the only way to remove the pressure it puts on the organs. But in most cases, the surgery isn’t a medical emergency. And as such, it’s best to treat it as a last resort. Alternative treatments like physical therapy and scoliosis-specific chiropractic adjustments have been shown to correct the curve without surgery as well as address quality of life symptoms like pain, trouble sleeping and headaches.

In fact, many patients see improved success rates and fewer complications with the Harrington rod surgery after they first test out the other treatment options available. Tension in the spinal cord can prevent the spine from bending into a fully straight position, limiting the success of the surgery. Stretches and exercises can work to create a more flexible spinal cord ahead of the surgery. A flexible spinal cord also reduces the risk of neurological complications during the surgery.

In the end, whether or not you move forward with the Harrington rod surgery is entirely your call. Talk through all of your options with your doctor, keeping in mind that there is no rush to make this decision. Trying other treatment options first won’t negatively affect the results of the surgery. They may even improve those results!

Are you thinking about the Harrington rod surgery? Have you already had the surgery? What benefits or drawbacks have you found? Share your story with us in the comments below.

61 comments on “Harrington Rod: Is It Right for Your Scoliosis?”

  1. 1
    Thea Naude on February 13, 2017

    I had a Harrington Instrumentation and spinal fusion in South Africa in 1981. I would like to know about ‘pain treatment’ for when you are over fifty. And also if rod can be removed please. Thank you

    1. 2
      Dr. Josh Woggon on February 13, 2017

      CLEAR’s protocols have helped many people who were still suffering from pain or limited function post-surgery. Although the fusion limits the extent of the correction that can be achieved, many adults with Harrington rods have found that the CLEAR adjustments, exercises, and therapies do a wonderful job of helping them to get through the day. You can find a case study here: http://26anr53alfsk2zsjwe2yplw2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/WFC-ACC-20141.pdf
      Most surgeons do not recommend removing the rod unless it is life-threatening. If the rod must come out, usually they will recommend that a new one replace it. Scoliosis surgery does permanent and irreversible damage to the bones, discs, & muscles of the spine; without the rod to hold it in place, the spine will collapse very quickly since the connective structures have been disrupted.

    2. 3
      Brandon Brake on March 26, 2017

      If you know someone who’s already had the surgery, and their spine would more than likely collapse of they are removed, but she is in chronic pain from the rods. Enough to where she’s at a breaking point. Do you believe any replacement rod put in could help?

    3. 4
      Dr. Josh Woggon on March 29, 2017

      There’s no guarantee that replacing the rods would help with pain. It’s important to understand the source of the pain; the most likely cause is from overworked muscles, but if the pain is from loosening or breakage of the instrumentation, then replacing the rods is more likely to help. I would recommend that your friend consult with the surgeon who performed the surgery; due to subtle variations in how the scoliosis surgery is performed, it’s always best to go back to the original surgeon if possible.

    4. 5
      Neshane on April 12, 2017

      Dear Thea,

      I had the very same operation in 1983 in South Africa. I was 15 years when I had the operation. I am almost 50 years and to date, have experienced no pain.

    5. 6
      Stacy Wright on April 19, 2017

      I had 2 sets of Herrington rods successfully removed after 23 years. Tumor at T9 in 1981, fusion broke in 1997, repaired and added another set of rods. I was miserable. I begged my surgeon for years until he finally said yes. I run 3 miles a day at the age of 49, and lift weights every day.

    6. 7
      Stacy Wright on April 19, 2017

      Correction, fusion broke in 1987, not 1997

    7. 8
      gary ligon on June 7, 2017

      i had a friend that got 3 rods in his back. the pain continued for many years and then the pain got so bad, he hanged himself in his gma’s basement. my advice is correct the mineral and vitamin shortage to heal naturally. the sod is only approved for a fore arm, not a back or a leg. if you are thinking about getting one, i say not to. if you already got one, sue them for miss application of medical apparatus. i heard some received half a million

  2. 9
    Kathleen Upton-Van Ham on March 14, 2017

    I had Harrington rod surgery in 1976, I am currently battling more pain, numbness and loss of strength in my legs than i can deal with…no medications help…what is my life expectancy…I am afraid that it is greatly compromised..

    1. 10
      Dr. Josh Woggon on March 15, 2017

      How scoliosis – and scoliosis surgery – affect life expectancy is a controversial question. There have been conflicting studies regarding how scoliosis affects life expectancy, and no studies on how surgery affects life expectancy in patients with idiopathic scoliosis that I am aware of (although there is some limited evidence that surgery improves life expectancy in patients with certain types of neuromuscular scoliosis, such as scoliosis caused by cerebral palsy).
      It is never too late to seek care! CLEAR treatment has helped individuals of all ages, including adults who had the surgery in their teenage years. I strongly encourage you to reach out to a CLEAR doctor and find out if something can be done to help you manage your pain & symptoms naturally, without drugs!

    2. 11
      Vicki Protyniak on February 11, 2018

      Hi Kathleen I had my rod put in in “77”….after surgery did you have to lay straight and getting flipped over every few hours for mths then have plaster on for 12 mths then a brace for another 12mths..? im in my 50s now and my spine has curved badly lumbar region where rod finished …im suffering with pins and nestles in leg, hard to sit on a chair with both cheeks on chair if u get my drift. .lol…shooting pains in groin when walk….I have one leg shorter also…are u suffering these symptoms to Kathleen. …are u in Australia? ?..cheers vicki..😀….there is a excellent web site called …..scoloisis warriors you can really relate….👍👍✔😀

  3. 12
    Ross E Rutledge on April 1, 2017

    Ross here I have a harrington rod from t8to my pelvic bone and broke the first rod 30 yrs ago and had new one put in .The plate that was supposed to sit on,ended up w acme thread bar between hips.I was shot in the back by my boy scout leader w a ,44magnum hollow point w dumb dumb cross, in the kitchen after target practice.Happened in Oak Bay , Victoria BC Ca.1972 and kept from public or no insurance paynent.The RCMP and Police let him go home for Christmas,in Calif. never returned.He promised to come back.I bled out three times before stabilizing .Now being paraplegic ,almost quad, the doctors said 5 to 10 yrs life expectancy but I lived now 45 plus yrs w pain now back bone is worn and beat on for all that time .Now encased in bone the doctors have no alternatives.Can I say fairly that amputation of my now a swollen no bend at the knees legs.Also my hip bone rubs my ribs on left side,any ideas for my back to hold upright and allow rehab.
    to have a purpose of getting up out of bed,after our wonderful health care has left me in bed for 7 yrs w no way to get going and get back to a functional life.Any ideas for new treatments or 3d printed back bone,any clues as what may help.Thanx for your time Cheers I will wait as ,not going anywhere soon.

    1. 13
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 11, 2017

      Wow, Ross, that is quite the story! Due to the unique nature of your case, I would not be able to provide specific advice over the Internet. If you were to get in touch with a CLEAR Certified Doctor and share your x-rays and medical records with them, they might be able to provide some thoughts as to whether CLEAR treatment could help you. However, this might be a case where a surgical stabilization/fusion could be your best option. You can find a list of CLEAR doctors here: http://www.clear-institute.org/find-a-doctor/. If there is any help we can provide in helping you to select a doctor, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at care@clear-institute.org!

  4. 14
    Alice Nelsen on April 6, 2017

    I had herrington rod surgery for my scoliosis in 1966 when I was 14 years old. 3 rods total and bone taken from my hip to use in the fusion. My surgery was performed by Dr. Mullen at Children’s hospital in Seattle, WA. I have had very good luck in that I had not much pain during the past years…just off and on low back pain that I think is normal for any person. However, two weeks ago I began having severe back pain (no incident to point to as the cause, maybe just overworking my back). Now I am experiencing what I believe to be very severe back spasms (always when trying to get in and out of bed, or turning myself over in bed) as well as constant daily pain across my lower back. I had an Xray taken 4 days ago which showed marked degeneration of L4-5 just below the fusion of one of the rods. I don’t know what option is best for me…manage the pain and hope to get through it, or surgery. Also, I would like to know how to find a doctor in the Bellingham or Seattle Washington area who knows about herrington rods and surgery. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

    1. 15
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 11, 2017

      Hello,
      In my opinion, spinal fusion addresses the symptom of scoliosis (the curving of the spine) without fixing the cause (why it curved in the first place). Therefore, whatever it was that caused the spine in the first place is still there. The muscles and the body are fighting against this artificial correction, which often leads to muscle spasm and pain down the road, after the surgery. It’s also very common for the segments above and below the fusion to start deteriorating faster, due to the increased stresses placed upon them by the fusion of the spine. It’s often called ASP, Adjacent Segment Pathology (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4591457/) or ASD, Adjacent Segment Disease. There is some controversy regarding whether this happens due to poor surgical technique, or patient factors predisposing the spine to further injury.
      CLEAR has helped many people regain some of their function after scoliosis surgery, and reduce their pain levels (see the last case study on this page for more information: https://www.clear-institute.org/about/research/); you may want to consider getting in touch with a CLEAR Certified Doctor in your area, such as Dr. Scot Sorum in Bellevue, WA. Unfortunately I do not have any personal recommendations for scoliosis surgeons in the Northwest, but perhaps Dr. Sorum could point you in the right direction.

  5. 16
    Joan Buzgierski on April 8, 2017

    In 1988 I had scoliosis surgery. Herrington rods were wired to my spine. I had severe painful scoliosis. My spine was almost like an S getting ready to collapse. Anyway, my question is, since then i put on alot of weight. How can i safely exercise my midsection to lose this weight since i can’t bend it ? Also how much weight can i lift without hurting my spine, rods and wires??

    1. 17
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 11, 2017

      Sit-ups are terrible for your spine. The best exercise to do for the abdominal muscles, that doesn’t harm your spine, are bicycle kicks. Lie down on your back, and place 3″ (5 cm) supports underneath your neck and low back (unless you have a spondylolisthesis in the low back, in which case don’t place a support there). You can use a rolled-up towel similar to what is described in the Spinal Molding exercise here: https://www.clear-institute.org/living-with-scoliosis/scoliosis-exercises/back-exercises/. Then, lift your legs up in the air and pretend you are pedaling an imaginary bicycle.
      It’s impossible to estimate exactly how much weight is safe for you to lift without being more familiar with your individual case and performing an exam in person, but to be safe, a good general rule of thumb is to get help when lifting anything over 20 lbs (9 kgs). If lifting even this much causes pain, however, then it may still be too high. I would highly recommend consulting with a scoliosis specialist if you need a more detailed answer to this question, or help with special restrictions/limitations at work.

    2. 18
      Darleen Wilson on November 13, 2017

      Mine is like an S too. My surgery was in 1992 I was 10. I have severe lower back pain I can’t lay on my left side or it kills my back and shoots pain in my left leg. Also my back swells up too and when it’s cold or rainy my back kills me. I didn’t want the surgery but I didn’t have a choice I have had back pain b4 and After surgery. My back pain is daily and the Dr:s don’t tell you the older you get the worse it seems to get at least for me. I personally don’t recommend this surgery. It also can cause damage I wish I could just have it removed because it didn’t exactly straighten my back and my tailbone is huge and also gives me problems. I have arthritis in my neck from the rod I have to turn my body and people that doesn’t have scoliosis doesn’t have a clue the severity of it and the pain the Dr’s don’t even tell you about. Living with scoliosis and the pain is a night mare

  6. 19
    Nana on April 13, 2017

    Hi, need some advice here, why everyone here complaining about the pain several years after surgery? I’m going for the surgery soon, in Malaysia. I have no idea what’s is the rod that they will insert in me, I only know 2 titanium Rots and 28 screws. I’m 24 years old, my scoliosis had progressed to 58degrees. Will the surgery make me worst when I grew older? After getting the surgery can I still get marry and pregnant like normal people? Can I still wear heels after the surgery? Is there anything that I wouldn’t be able to do for the rest of my life or anything I should be aware of? Thank you

    1. 20
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 17, 2017

      It’s impossible to predict exactly where you’ll be after the surgery. Some patients report improvements in their pain levels, while others experience no change, or the pain gets worse. While most people report satisfaction with the results of their surgery, this doesn’t always correlate with improvements in objective measurements of function or cosmetic appearance. Fusing one area of the spine tends to place more stress upon other areas, and this can accelerate the process of degeneration. The good news is that most people with scoliosis rods do not experience any significant problems with giving birth. High heels (greater than 3 cm, or 1 inch) can be bad for your spine; surgery or not, we recommend limiting the amount of time you spend wearing them if possible. Regarding post-op activities, most patients can return to general functioning after a few months, but there are some activities (full contact sports, high-impact activities like mountain biking, and some types of martial arts) that most surgeons will recommend you say away from.

    2. 21
      Lara on September 7, 2017

      Hi Nana,
      Perhaps by now you’ve already had this surgery and know the answers to your questions. If not, I wanted to share my experience with you.
      I had this surgery when I was 14 and I’m now 32 years old. I have carried and delivered 4 healthy babies. I have run 2 marathons and 6 half marathons, done several triathlons and 3 Spartan races. I started out lifting light weights at the gym about 6 years ago, and slowly worked up to powerlifting 6 days a week, pretty heavy. I’ve tried to keep in good physical condition, with very strong muscles and core to protect my spine. I do have lower back pain, but the stronger my core, the less often it hurts. I highly recommend weightlifting to keep muscles strong and pain at bay, but learning proper form to protect your lower back is imperative.
      And yes, I LOVE wearing high heels 🙂 I hope you have a healthy low-pain life!

  7. 22
    Kate on April 19, 2017

    Hi

    I’m also from South Africa and had the Harrington Rod surgery in 1999 when I was 12. I still have a very pronounced curve and my right scupula hangs forward which really embarrasses me. People frequently question me about my back.

    Every single day my back gives me trouble. I’ve gone to physio, chiros and bios and have been deligent with the exercises they gave me on top of being very physically active and yet I’m still in so much pain and still very lopsidded. I’m scared to have children because I don’t want to pass on this horrible gene… plus preganancy with this back would definintely be unbearable.

    I went to another orthro for a check up and he examined my x-rays and said the surgery had been done very well… But every day is sore and that’s clearly how the rest of my life is going to be and nothing seems to help:-(

    I would definitely look at other options and avoid this surgery if possible.

    1. 23
      Darleen Wilson on November 12, 2017

      I had my surgery in 1992 I was 10 and I have
      Severe lower back pain that goes into my left leg and my left side swells could this be dics from the rod I personally wouldn’t recommend the surgery it is a life time of constant severe pain

    2. 24
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 12, 2017

      With scoliosis surgery, the spinal discs in the area of the fusion are removed and bone chips (typically harvested from the patient’s hip bone) are inserted in their place, to encourage solid bony fusion of the spine in that area. With the discs gone, the spine loses some of its ability to effectively absorb shocks, compression, and the daily effects of gravity, thus placing the remaining discs below under greater strain. This may accelerate the process of degeneration in the spinal joints, and increase muscle tension. Despite what many surgeons tell their patients, the un-fused areas of the spine do NOT become more mobile to compensate for the fused segments (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16449904), and the reductions in spinal mobility are still present even 20 years after the surgery (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16449899).
      Swelling on one side of the body could arise from any number of causes, such as a restriction in lymph flow, weakness in the veins, a viral infection, or problems with the pancreas, or kidneys. A consultation with a healthcare professional might be able to shed some more light on this for you.
      CLEAR has been able to help many post-surgical patients to improve their function and reduce their pain; please consider reaching out to one of our doctors to see if we might be able to help! https://www.clear-institute.org/find-a-doctor/

  8. 25
    Izabela on April 21, 2017

    Hi, I had a surgery in 1992 in Poland. I was 11 years old. I had 64 degrees angle before Harrington rod and after was 32. I’m 36 years old and 11 weeks pregnant. What are the chances I can give normal birth or C section is recommended? Is epidural safe? Is my back strong enough to carry that weight? My OB/GYN isn’t much informed about it and I’m trying to do some research before next visit.

    1. 26
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 25, 2017

      Unfortunately there has not been a great deal of research on scoliosis & pregnancy, so we don’t currently know if women with scoliosis (or those who have had the surgery) are more likely to deliver via C-section. Epidurals do tend to be more difficult to perform, and sometimes cannot be performed at all, so it is important to discuss this with your anethesiologist and birthing team in advance. People with scoliosis are also at greater risk for developing back pain, so finding natural ways of helping with this (such as chiropractic) is also a very good idea. You might find the information in this article helpful: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4472295/

    2. 27
      Lorraine McIntyre on June 15, 2017

      I had harrington rods inserted 1966 i will not go into the pain i am in now but i have given birth to two sons and absolutely no problems at all.
      Now that is my experience dear i am fused from T4 to L3. Yours could be different but up to your specialist.

    3. 28
      Kendra on June 15, 2017

      I had Harrington rods put in place in 1993 at the age of almost 13 years old in Kalamazoo, MI. I have been fortunate to lead a very full life. I have two children that I birthed completely naturally without any pain medications. It can be done! I have focused highly on nutrition and mental strength and it paid off during pregnancy and childbirth.

    4. 29
      Nanette castillo on June 27, 2017

      Hi just wanted to let u kno..I’ve been thru 3 pregnancies with really no problems ..2 normal n 1 c section..my last child was in 1994..dont kno when but now my harrington rod is broke n 1 dr is wanting to do surgery to remove the rod. .dont cheat yourself out of a child…the best feeling in the world..they are grown n now having babies of their own….enjoy your life

    5. 30
      Sheree on July 2, 2017

      They had a terrible time putting epideral in my back . They had to for both my children get the anesthesiologist that did major surgeries come to put in my needle . They had to go in at an angle and put it in early stages it slowly w d down my labor .. Long labors with both children

    6. 31
      Lara on September 7, 2017

      Hi Izabela,
      If you haven’t delivered your baby yet, I wanted to give you some reassurance about your delivery. I had two Herrington rods put on my spine to correct severe scoliosis when I was a teenager also. I have since carried and delivered 4 healthy babies. No attempts at administering an epidural were successful, so I’d suggest you train for a natural childbirth, perhaps in warm water with a mid wife, or using the Bradley Method. If you feel you’ll need some medication to help, fentanyl was a huge help for me. It’s given intravenously and takes the edge off very well. I’ve also found that keeping fit and staying active…specifically strengthening the core muscles every single day, have been the biggest factor in managing my back pain—even during pregnancy. If you haven’t made a consistent effort to keep your weight healthy and core strong, definitely do so once your baby is born and you are cleared to exercise again. It’ll be the best medicine for any pain you might have in the future! Best of luck my dear!

  9. 32
    Sophia on April 22, 2017

    Hello I had surgery in 1985. I never let my scoliosis stop me from my child hood. Yes there were limits to what I could do. But now that in 44 the pain won t go away my pelvic speaded 4 years ago the Dr couldn’t find out why. The left hip is were they removed the bone to place in my neck usually doesn’t give me problems it the right hip that causes all kind of problems. I can’t lift my right leg that much the pain is so bad that I can’t move at times and it feels as of it’s going to break. Every time I go to the Dr. Or hospital they just give me meds that don’t work. Can you please give me some advice on what I should do. My legs are my life and I feel as if the Dr.don’t want to do anything because I have the rods in my back. I’ve been dealing with this for far to long and I haven’t received any help just pain meds

    1. 33
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 25, 2017

      You are not alone; many people who have had the scoliosis surgery as teenagers suffer from pain & limitations in adulthood. While parts of the spine that are fused can no longer be treated, it may be possible that CLEAR chiropractic care could help you to regain some of your mobility and reduce your hip pain. You can read a case study of one such patient here: http://26anr53alfsk2zsjwe2yplw2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/WFC-ACC-20141.pdf
      I strongly suggest that you reach out to a CLEAR Certified Doctor and schedule a consultation to see if CLEAR could help you! https://www.clear-institute.org/find-a-doctor/

    2. 34
      Lara on September 7, 2017

      I too started experiencing hip pain about 15 years after my Herrington rods were put in. I saw a skilled chiropractor who told my my hips were severely out of alignment, which is normal considering how much a curved spine affects your hips. Simple chiropractic adjustments have helped me tremendously. It’s not a quick fix, it takes the body time to retrain, heal and learn to stay in place, but the relief is instant. If hip alignment is your problem, then I’m sure this will help. And yes, hip adjustments are safe even with rods on your spine as long as you’re seeing an experienced chiropractic Dr.

  10. 35
    Vera Garcia on April 23, 2017

    I just found out today that my rod is not connected to the top or the bottom of my curvature I had the procedure when I was 16 about 33 34 years ago I don’t know where to go from here

    1. 36
      Dr. Josh Woggon on April 25, 2017

      I would recommend that you reach out to the hospital or surgical center where they conducted your surgery immediately!

  11. 37
    Elizabeth H on May 18, 2017

    I’m a 53 yr old woman diagnosed with 45° cobb angle at 13, it has progressed to an 86° cobb angle. I’ve had 4 natural births and 1 c-section, my pregnancies did not affect my everyday life and back pain wasn’t an issue until I was given a epidural during labor with my 4th child (age 35 then) my previous measurement in 2012 was °65, I recently sought a Doctors evaluation today and he recommends the titanium rod, it’s a big decision but fear the progression of my curving spine. I’m very active, yoga everyday but the pain I’m experiencing is more frequent. I wonder if this is something I should consider, I’ve seen a chiropractor specializing in scoliosis and says he’s not comfortable treating my condition, any advice is helpful.

    1. 38
      Dr. Josh Woggon on May 24, 2017

      Many chiropractors claim to specialize in scoliosis, but only the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute has an established training & certification program through an accredited chiropractic university. Pain may or may not be helped by the surgery, and the operation is irreversible. In my opinion, it’s always best to explore as many different conservative approaches as possible before going down the surgical route.

  12. 39
    Jan Hardy on May 31, 2017

    I was born with severe scoliosis; I spent 12 years going to Shriners, and wore a Milwaukee brace for 2 yrs(from age12-14)-1970-72. Shriners couldn’t do my surgery, because I was considered “the granddaddy of them all,” so they searched the country for a qualified orthopedic surgeon, and found one in Boise, Idaho. I had triple curvature, the middle one being 90 degrees. Being only 14, I only understood part of the process, but after reading the article here from January 2017. I have never had trouble with them, unless I use improper body mechanics or work in places like nursing homes, which I did for awhile-ouch! Now I notice that when I use upper back muscles around the trapezius muscle, I have some pain that comes and goes. Plus, I’ve gained a lot of weight that I need to lose. I am 59 years old now, and have done great! I wish I could thank my Dr and his brother(also a dr who assisted with my surg)-for the life they have given me! Now only neurosurgeons are allowed to do spinal surgeries, I guess, but my orthopedic drs were awesome! If there is any information not posted that would be beneficial, I would love to have it!

  13. 40
    Trina f on July 20, 2017

    Hi I’m in the UK, I had Harrington rod put in in 1980 when I was 15.all was great apart from a few twinges n aches but nothing I couldn’t live with. I had the rods removed in 1980 as something had gone wrong and were causing pain, again after all was well. I’v had three pregnancys all of which were good in fact I think my posture was better while pregnant i had two normal births and one emergency c section at age 42 but no way could I have let them give me an epidural cant stand any one touching my spine make me feel sick!!?? In the last six to seven years the pain in my lower back n hips has been bad, I think it’s flat back syndrome but nobody seems to want to talk about that in the UK. I’ve had acupuncture n injections n physio etc etc for my hip but doc has referred me back to spinal surgeon, just got an app through only been waiting 12months for this, waited 18months for the first app then 12 months to see the hip surgeon, wish me luck. Good luck to you all oh n go ahead n have babies don’t let scoliosis hold you back xx

  14. 41
    Dana Moll on July 21, 2017

    Can we send xray photos for you to look at and give an opinion?

    1. 42
      Dr. Josh Woggon on July 25, 2017

      This is a very common request. Please keep in mind, though, that CLEAR Institute is a Non-Profit. We do not provide treatment or treatment recommendations; our purpose is to educate people about scoliosis & chiropractic, and help people suffering from scoliosis to connect with chiropractors with advanced training in this spinal disorder. You are welcome to send x-rays; however, we will not provide medical opinions for your specific case. Rather, we will use the information to help connect you with the best doctor for you, who will then review your x-rays and provide a more detailed, individualized assessment.

  15. 43
    Tamabawo on August 5, 2017

    I have had two spine fusions. L1, L5, S1. My back is in constant pain. I am 60 years old. One surgery 2010 that was botched. Corrected in 2013. Can I have the titanium rods and screws removed? Stopped taking loads of medication. Last injection was horrible. Tried PT, acupuncture, you name it. Any help out there for me? Desperate in Maryland.

    1. 44
      Dr. Josh Woggon on August 7, 2017

      The surgery to remove the rods typically takes twice as long and costs twice as much as the surgery to implant them. What’s worse, insurance will not cover the costs unless the rods pose an immediate danger (of puncturing a lung, severing an artery, etc.). Furthermore, most studies find a drastic collapse in the spinal column if the rods are removed, due to the disruption of the spinal joints, discs, ligaments, and muscles. The most recent recommendations state that if the rods need to be removed for any reason, it’s best to implant a new set.
      CLEAR has helped many patients who underwent scoliosis surgery. In fact, one of these patients was featured in a case study that was presented at the largest chiropractic research conference in the world: http://26anr53alfsk2zsjwe2yplw2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/WFC-ACC-20141.pdf

  16. 45
    Sheree on August 30, 2017

    I was wondering if anyone has had any trouble with hip pain and pain in the buttocks area after having the rod for many years .. Also lower back being hyper mobile ?

    1. 46
      Darleen Wilson on November 12, 2017

      Yes severe low back pain hip pain and tailbone my tailbone is huge and sticks out a lot

  17. 47
    Fil Brashaw on September 13, 2017

    My daughter is 11 years old and has Ullrich Muscular Dystrophy . She lost her ability to walk just over a year ago and is now using a wheel chair to get around . Scoliosis had never been a issue until we started using her chair . We were told a month ago that her scoliosis was to a point that we need to think about surgery . Most in partly due to her lungs . She blew a 40 on her last test but has had a average of 35 . They said that they can’t do the surgery if she’s under 32 % . After reading some of these comments , I’m a bit nervous . We are located in Birmingham Al area and we will be seeing Dr Conklin . Have talked with a few other people that have had the Harrington surgery and they were more then happy with him . They all said we were in the right hands so that’s great . Do we have any other options that we can look into ? Any and all advice would be greatly appriciated . Thank you , Fil .

    1. 48
      Dr. Josh Woggon on September 13, 2017

      Unfortunately we currently do not have any CLEAR doctors in the Birmingham area, so receiving CLEAR treatment would require you to travel to an IC (Intensive Care) Certified clinic for two weeks, at least twice a year for at least three years, and then once a year for the next two or three. If this is feasible, CLEAR could be one potential alternative. If it’s not, surgery might be your best option.
      The average age of curve acceleration (when the scoliosis gets worse the fastest) in females is 11.7, so I would encourage you to be aware of the possibility that her scoliosis might get worse at this time in her life. Ultimately the decision is up to you, but there are times when scoliosis surgery really is the best option for a patient, and CLEAR recognizes this fact. I am not a scoliosis surgeon, and thus not truly qualified to offer a formal recommendation, but this might be one of those times.
      I wish you and your daughter all the best of health & happiness!

  18. 49
    Dawn on November 11, 2017

    I have a Harrington Rod in my back which was put in when I was 17. I am now 45 and having issues with my neck. I am seeing a chiropractor but it’s too early to tell if this will help. I’d this normal?

    1. 50
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 12, 2017

      Many adults who had Harrington rods implanted in their spines as teenagers will experience pain or problems later in life, due to the fact that the reasons why the scoliosis developed in the first place are not addressed by the rods. Those same forces which drove the scoliosis to get worse still act upon the fused spine, and can cause the spine to buckle or degenerate in the un-fused areas. I wouldn’t call any pain ‘normal,’ but it does make sense that the neck or other areas might develop problems when you account for the laws of physics, gravity, and spinal biomechanics.
      While it can be difficult to find a surgeon willing to perform a revision surgery (or an insurance company that will pay for it), fortunately it is possible to find relief through chiropractic and other conservative treatment methods. Check out our Research page for one such example of a patient who underwent spinal fusion surgery and was still able to be successfully treated with the CLEAR protocols. If your current chiropractic treatment doesn’t provide you with the results you are looking for after a few weeks of care, I’d suggest looking into CLEAR or a different, structurally-based technique (such as CBP or Pettibon). One thing you definitely do not want to do is ignore the pain, or try to manage it with painkillers; over time, the mechanical problems with the spine could get worse, and cause damage which is irreparable even with specialized chiropractic treatment.

    2. 51
      Darleen Wilson on November 12, 2017

      Me too my Dr had to cut that piece of my rod out now I have arthritis

  19. 52
    Darleen Wilson on November 12, 2017

    Me too my Dr had to cut that piece of my rod out now I have arthritis

  20. 53
    Tiffany on November 15, 2017

    I had the rods implanted in 1986/87 as a young child. I am now 42 years old and over the last few years have begin to have increasing pain. I had a orthopedic specialist or an MRI. I always thought you couldn’t have such a procedure ( after my surgery as a child my doctor told me not MRI’S because it could cause damage or even cause parallelization). I went forward with the test because this dr.told me that was not a true statement; now since having the MRI my back makes a popping /or clicking noise. My neck now hurts and that never caused me pain before. I am convinced that my rods shifted in the machine. Is there any treatment for this new pain? Should I have not had the MRI done?

    1. 54
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 15, 2017

      This is a very interesting comment, and a very good question – thank you for taking the time to post! There has never been any research done to determine if the incidence of spine pain increases in patients with spinal instrumentation after an MRI, but it certainly does sound plausible. If the rods have been in place for many years, it is possible that the anchor points might have loosened in some areas, and that the strong magnetic field of the MRI could have pulled a loose screw or hook further out of place. It might be worth your time to reach out to the orthopedic center where the surgery was performed to inquire about this possibility, and ask if any other patients have ever reported similar experiences. In regards to relieving the pain, many patients who had the surgery and were then treated with the CLEAR methods later in life experience reductions in their pain because we are able to improve the biomechanical function in the unfused areas, and reduce the stresses acting upon those anchor points and fused segments. I definitely think you should reach out to a CLEAR doctor to share your x-rays & medical records and schedule a consultation; they would be able to let you know if they could help you, and more precisely estimate the potential correction and chances of success. https://www.clear-institute.org/find-a-doctor/

  21. 55
    Lisa on December 8, 2017

    I had rods placed in my back in 1993 at age 13. I experience a lot of pain in my shoulder blade that goes down my arm into my chest and neck I also have a weird numbness in my left leg sometime. You can also feel the screw between my shoulder stick out. They cut a bone out of my hip and placed it in my shoulder. I have a hard time every day with pain and no doctor can help or tell me why. I have had 3 children tried to have my first one natural but could not so I have had to be put to sleep every one of them..does anyone else have any of these symptoms?? Thank you

  22. 56
    Joshua Lallement on December 12, 2017

    Quick question just wondering. Can the screws and rods be removed?

    1. 57
      Dr. Josh Woggon on December 13, 2017

      While it is possible to remove the hardware, it is not possible to repair the damage done to the bones of the spine or the surrounding tissues. Also, part of the surgery involves removing the spinal discs, and these cannot be replaced. If the hardware is removed, the collapse of the spinal column is accelerated. For this reason, the current recommendations state that if the rods do need to be removed for any reason, they should be replaced with another set.

  23. 58
    Thea Naude on January 4, 2018

    When I had surgery in 1981 I was never told what to do once I came out of my plaster of Paris cast. Now in my fifties, I would like to know how often does one check on your hardware and curve. Thank you

  24. 59
    Dr. Josh Woggon on January 6, 2018

    I’ve spoken with numerous orthopedic surgeons, and hundreds of patients who have had the surgery – in my experience, it is actually very rare for a surgeon to perform any type of follow-up after the scoliosis surgery. I would recommend having check-ups (including x-rays) at least every five years, and scheduling one immediately if you notice any increase in back pain or sharp pains in the spine.

  25. 60
    Nikki Goyal on February 10, 2018

    Hey. I am 15 and already had 2 surgeries. One I had when I was 12, it was a simple fusion in which no rods were inserted in my back. I had a curve of 48 degrees at that time. I wore brace for about 2 years because I was told that my height was still progressing. I visited my doctor a month back to ask for the removal of brace but I was told that my curve had progressed to 67 degrees and that I needed another surgery in which I would get rods inserted. I have had the operation and a month has passed but I’m scared that what if the curve again progresses and something like a re-surgery happens to me? I am 15 and having double scoliosis. Any information would be beneficial.

    1. 61
      Dr. Josh Woggon on February 13, 2018

      Hello, and thank you for taking the time to share your story. I admire your bravery and courage, to have gone through everything you have at such a young age!
      According to recent research, operated patients lose about one-third of the correction ten years after the surgery. Many people have scoliosis surgery thinking it will be the final solution to their worries about scoliosis, and sadly, this is not always the case. Scoliosis surgery is also a permanent, life-changing event… even if the rods are removed, the disruption to the elements of the spine & the surrounding soft tissues de-stabilizes the spinal column to the point where most surgeons recommend putting new rods in; otherwise, the scoliosis can get worse very quickly after the rods have been removed.
      But there is hope, and good news! CLEAR has helped many people with scoliosis even after they have had the surgery; in fact, I presented a case study on one such individual at the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) conference in Miami a few years back, which you can read about here. Simply by working on the areas above and below the fusion, we were able to reduce the forces going into the fused areas. This resulted in a substantial improvement in his quality of life, pain, and other symptoms, as well as a complete restoration of all the correction he had lost over the years, right back to where he was just after the surgery! While this correction wasn’t permanent (taking care of your spine is like eating well & exercising – if you stop doing it, the positive changes can slowly go away over time), it does offer a lot of hope that loss of correction post-surgery can be prevented or reversed. We’ve even started working with some orthopedic surgeons who have recognized that their patients do better before & after scoliosis surgery if they go through CLEAR treatment!
      I would highly recommend getting in touch with a CLEAR Certified chiropractor; they would be able to prescribe a home exercise plan and provide treatment that could reduce the risk of your curve progressing again, even after the surgery. By restoring good motion & alignment to the areas above and below the fusion, you can increase the chances that you will be able to continue doing the activities you love for years to come.
      I wish you all the best of health & happiness!

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