Standing Tall - Treatment Option for Scoliosis

Abnormal Curvature of the Spine

Image of Karen Benedix and her husband taking a walkA normal spine, when viewed from behind, appears straight. However, a spine affected by scoliosis shows a side-to-side curvature, with the spine looking like an "S" or "C." Scoliosis occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. In most cases, the cause is unknown. In other cases, scoliosis may develop as a result of breakdown of the spinal discs, as seen with arthritis, osteoporosis, or as a hereditary condition that runs in families.

Signs of scoliosis may include:

  • One shoulder higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade sticking out farther
    than the other
  • An uneven waistline
  • Hems hanging unevenly on you

While most cases are mild with few symptoms, severe scoliosis can be painful and disabling and may require surgery. A new surgical approach, now available to patients in Michiana, helps stabilize a patient’s spine and reduce or remove pain by joining two or more vertebral bones to prevent movement – also known as spinal fusion.

During the procedure, which typically involves two surgeries over the course of a week, bone grafts are inserted between vertebrae to encourage new bone growth and fuse the spinal bones together. Screws, rods, and connectors are also implanted along the spine forming an "internal cast" to support the vertebrae and redirect stress during the healing and fusing process.

“The techniques we are using for spinal deformity [scoliosis] surgery are less invasive and allow for faster recovery,” said neurosurgeon Rafeek Woods, MD. “Unlike traditional techniques which relied on removing parts of the bony spinal column to correct the deformity, in the majority of cases we are now able to restore normal anatomy by re-establishing normal disc spaces.”


For the last 30 years of her life, 68-year-old Karen Benedix couldn’t remember a time when her back didn’t hurt. However, in the last three years the pain had become increasingly worse. So much so, that she had trouble walking any distance and could no longer perform everyday chores around the house, such as laundry or dishes. Tired of living her life in pain, she sought the help of Dr. Woods at Lakeland Neurosurgery.

“Before my surgery I was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight – that’s all gone now. Everyone needs to know what a great surgeon Dr. Woods is. I’m so thankful this procedure is available in our area and that I was able to remain close to home.”

Read Karen's Story

Continue Watching

Inpatient Rehabilitation: Timothy Buchana "Making Every Second Count"

After suffering a severe brain hemorrhage, Timothy turned to Lakeland Hospital Watervliet for inpatient rehabilitation.

Inpatient Rehabilitation: Mike Wilson "A New Normal"

After suffering a stroke, Mike Wilson spent the next month participating in an extensive inpatient rehabilitation program at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet to help him return to his normal functions.

Provider Video Profile: Michael Schiman, NP (Neurology)

Nurse practitioner Michael Schiman helps those with a variety of neurologic illnesses at Lakeland Neurology.

Physician Video Profile: Rafeek Woods, MD (Neurosurgery)

Introducing Dr. Rafeek Woods, a neurosurgeon at Lakeland Neurosurgery in St. Joseph

Back Surgery: Types, Recovery, Risks, and Benefits (Christian Sikorski, MD)

Neurosurgery Brain Bleed: Becky Laymon "Niles to St. Joseph - One Big Family"

Becky Laymon's condition turned out to be a brain bleed.

Brain Cancer: Rick Ledesma "We're Going to Fight"

Learn about Rick's journey with glioblastoma mltiforme.

Physician Video Profile: Robert Ward, DO (Neurology)

Introducing Dr. Robert Ward, a neurologist with Berrien Regional Associates in Neurology.

Physician Video Profile: Christopher Contardo, PhD, ABPP (Neuropsychology)

Introducing Dr. Christopher Contardo, a neuropsychologist with Psychiatric & Psychological Specialties.

Physician Video Profile: Rafeek Woods, MD (Neurosurgery)

Introducing Dr. Rafeek Woods, a neurosurgeon at Lakeland Neurosurgery in St. Joseph

© Spectrum Health Lakeland 2019