HEALTH FIRST: When It Comes to Age-Related Scoliosis – ‘Nobody Has To Be This Way’

By  //  June 25, 2022

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June is Scoliosis Awareness Month

Dr. Richard Hynes is the founding physician at The B.A.C.K. Center. Degenerative scoliosis afflicts as many as 1 in 2 older seniors in Brevard County, he says, and that’s unfortunate. “It’s preventable – nobody has to be this way anymore.” (Health First image)

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, and Health First’s The B.A.C.K. Center want Brevard residents to know there are convenient treatment options.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Most of us can recall being tested for spine curvature in primary school, but scoliosis impacts individuals as they age, lose muscle and bone density.

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, and earlier this year, the area’s preeminent surgical spine center, The B.A.C.K. Center, joined Health First Medical Group.

Dr. Richard Hynes, founding physician at the center, says degenerative scoliosis afflicts as many as 1 in 2 older seniors. That’s where the discs and joints of the spine grow brittle and collapse with age.

“It’s preventable – nobody has to be this way anymore,” Hynes says.

“Here’s the takeaway. There’s a high incidence of scoliosis in adults. It comes from degeneration of the discs, usually in combination with stenosis” – the narrowing of spaces around spinal cord and nerve tissues – “and we have procedures that treat all of it at one time.”

Full-body Analysis

The B.A.C.K. Center patients – and providers – benefit from the region’s only EOS Imaging System. The standing, full-body scanner captures 3D images not just of vertebrae that may be misaligned but what role the hips, legs and feet play in it. And it delivers far less radiation than a traditional CT scan.

“You can’t really tell what your spine balance is unless you know that their hips are symmetrical, their knees and ankles.”

When Hynes first began practicing, medical instrumentation and procedures were so primitive patients and doctors couldn’t be confident surgery would be corrective. And it could be damaging. A standard single-bone fusion to straighten the spine had 50-50 results and a worrisome rate of infection.

Today, Dr. Hynes says he can do many fusions in a single operation with high confidence in alignment and with virtually zero risk of infection.

Dr. Richard Hynes stands inside the center’s EOS standing, full-body scanner. With it, he can analyze spinal alignment relative to the hips, legs and feet, and it delivers far less radiation than a traditional CT scan. Dr. Richard Hynes explains an EOS study. (Health First image)

World-class Procedures for the Spine

Dr. Hynes helped pioneer the Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF) technique for spinal fusions. In it, surgeons enter from the side, avoiding muscle wall. They repair degenerated discs, restoring vertebrae spacing in a balanced and symmetrical position. One of its distinct advantages is a rate of infection that approaches zero.

More than 500 surgeons from all over the world have come to Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center for training in the procedure, he said.

Dr. Hynes designed and patented an operating table especially for the operation. Called the “EXO,” it rotates 180 degrees while the patient is sedated and comfortable within the sterile operating field. The EXO saves an hour of operating time, and it’s exclusive to Holmes Regional Medical Center.

Kyphoplasty for Restoration

About half of the scoliosis cases Dr. Hynes sees are accompanied by spinal osteoporosis (or the less-severe osteopenia). Loss of bone density leads to painful and debilitating fractures, but in the spine, it can lead to body compression and neurological problems.

Treatment here has been hugely advanced by Kyphoplasty. Before a bone cement infuses the fracture, a small balloon fills and opens the space, restoring length to the vertebra – and balance.

“There’s usually about a 50% reduction in pain when they leave the office, and no deformity,” Dr. Hynes says.

Good Movement Is Good Health

Dr. Hynes says if there’s one preventive measure he’d like to yell from the rooftops, it’s – walk.

“You have to build it into your day because society has taken it out.”

Hynes says the nature of standing and moving around promotes bone growth. “In order for bone to deposit mineral, you have to have gravity – there has to be force applied to the bone.”

“People say, ‘Ugh, I can’t, I have hip problems, I have knee problems.’ OK, when you figure that out, then start walking. It’s not just osteoporosis, it’s your heart, it’s your blood pressure, it’s your weight, your endocrine system, diabetes – your well-being. You name it, if you start walking, all these things start improving.”

Dr. Richard Hynes helped pioneer the Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF) technique for spinal fusions. In it, surgeons enter from the side, avoiding muscle wall. They repair degenerated discs, restoring vertebrae spacing in a balanced and symmetrical position. One of its distinct advantages is a rate of infection that approaches zero. (Health First image)

Don’t Let Symptoms Slide

If you or a loved one has developed any of the following symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment at The B.A.C.K. Center today.

■ Spinal Curvature. Often described as an ‘S’ or ‘C’ curve and measured in degrees, an abnormal curvature of the spine is greater than 10 degrees.

■ Head Position. Patients whose heads do not sit squarely over their shoulders but pitch far forward may have severe thoracic curvature of the spine.

■ Walking Posture. Uneven walking, lurching or favoring one leg over the other may be caused by a number of orthopedic conditions, but scoliosis is a diagnosis that should be delivered – or eliminated – first.

■ Pain and Tingling. One symptom of scoliosis is pain and inflammation in the lower back and backs of legs that can even feel like tingling or burning, the result of tension caused by spinal compression and pinched nerves.

■ Organ Function Impairment. In few and extreme cases, thoracic curvature can result in the compression of lungs and pressure on the heart causing troubled breathing and impaired circulation. Farther down the spine, scoliosis can impede bowel and bladder functioning. These conditions warrant immediate attention.

If you’re concerned about your spine health and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, visit HF.org/Spinecare.

Dr. Richard Hynes holds up a human skeleton preserved and detailed for medical school instruction that he keeps in his office. Today, such models are fabricated from plastics. (Health First image)
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