Julia Eppler says she has had back pain since she was 14.
Diagnosed at age 20 with adult scoliosis - her spinal curve grew from 24 degrees - to 54. Physical therapy and injections failed.
"It was very frustrating and I felt very limited," she said.
Half a million people have adult scoliosis in the U.S., and the numbers are expected to increase.
"Many people, as the spine begins to age, and the discs degenerate, begin to experience more back and even leg pain," said Dr. Charles C. Edwards II, The Maryland Spine Center.
A new study shows spinal surgery may be the only viable option. Therapy - braces - and pain injections don't hold up long term for most. Still, the U.S. spends $86 billion a year on these remedies.
"While we may try medicines and injections first, oftentimes we will move onto surgery because those other methods just are not making a difference for them," said Dr. Edwards.
The study shows surgery patients saw a significant boost in function and quality of life. That includes patients from 40 to 80 years old. Non-operative patients reported no improvement at all.
Julia's decompression and fusion surgery worked.
"The difference has been remarkable," she said.
Six centers across the U.S. are currently involved in the government's adult scoliosis study, with results expected in 2015.
The closest site to us is in Chicago.