Jeanie’s crippling back pain forced her to spend most of her days immobile on the couch. She couldn’t engage in the most routine of household activities, and even going for a quick shopping trip to the mall seemed like a pipe dream.
After trying to improve her situation with pain medicine and an array of conservative treatments, Jeanie turned to Daniel S. Husted, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, in the hope he could help free her from her constant pain. Despite being averse to surgery, Jeanie and Dr. Husted together decided that spine surgery would give her the greatest chance to recover her sense of being alive.
“The biggest benefit is I got my life back,” says Jeanie. “I was on the sofa every day and could only get up for short periods of time. Now I can go to the store and the mall and shop for hours. I can clean my house again, do laundry, take long walks, and swim.”
The Effects of Low Back Pain
Every individual experiences pain but how they experience it is unique for each person. Chronic pain differs from acute pain because it does not go away as pain alarms continue to sound in the nervous system for weeks, months, and even years. Relentless chronic discomfort can impact one’s physical functioning, mental balance, quality of life, and productivity.
Lower back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the U.S., affecting roughly 31 million people. Almost 150 million work days are lost every year due to low back pain resulting in billions of dollars in lost wages and productivity.
Low back pain does not discriminate between men and women. Its symptoms can range in duration and intensity from a dull, persistent ache to sudden, sharp pains that leave the individual incapacitated. Back pain can arise due to an accident, injury, and by lifting heavy objects, or it can evolve over time. Age and wear and tear can change the structure of the spine resulting in degenerating vertebrae, disc erosion, and weakening of the muscles and ligaments around the spine.
How Is Low Back Pain Treated?
Treatments for lower back discomfort typically depend on if the pain is acute or chronic. Chronic back pain is defined as pain that remains for twelve weeks or more. Common conservative treatment methods for low back pain include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicine
- Regular application of heat or ice
- Physical therapy
- Injection-based therapies – including nerve blocks and epidural steroid injections
- Lifestyle changes – such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and increased physical activity
In most cases, surgery is only recommended as a last resort when other treatment methods fail to produce results and if a physician finds evidence of deteriorating nerve damage or spinal structural decay.
“I tried chiropractic (therapy), epidural injections, physical therapy, pain medication, and none of it worked,” says Jeanie. “I came into South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and brought my MRI. Dr. Husted took a look at it, smiled, and said ‘Ah, we can fix this no problem.’ He made me feel very confident that he could help me.”
Spine surgery is performed to alleviate a variety of low back issues including:
“It was very easy to make an appointment. I got (an appointment) within a week, which was fabulous,” says Jeanie. “The staff was excellent at answering questions. The girl that did my pre-op was very knowledgeable and walked me through all the steps of what I needed to do. And the front desk staff was fantastic. They’re very well organized. You go to one window for each doctor, and I think that helps avoid confusion at a large practice.”
Recovering from Spine Surgery
Every individual’s recovery time will depend on their unique circumstances, personal medical history, and the type of procedure performed. With most spine surgeries, patients are able to walk within hours after the procedure, and most can go home the same day or the day after surgery.
It’s normal to feel some residual pain, numbness, or weakness for a few weeks after surgery. The bones of the spine will continue to heal for a few months after surgery, and full healing may continue for up to a year. Healthy younger patients can generally return to work and their normal routine after four to six weeks. However, with older patients, a full recovery may take up to four to six months.
Doctors will often stress that surgery is the first step on the road to being fully functional. Surgeons will generally recommend physical therapy as a critical component in the healing process.
“Both Dr. Husted and his assistant, Paul, were very knowledgeable,” says Jeanie. “They were excellent and would explain everything that was going on and remind me it would take a while, but that things would get better.”
Following the success of her spine surgery, Jeanie would not hesitate to recommend it to others in her position. “I would say go through all your options, and then speak to the doctor,” says Jeanie. “I was in so much pain. Surgery was the last thing I wanted to do, but there was no question that I needed to do it.”
If you’ve been suffering from chronic back or neck pain and would like to talk about your condition and explore your treatment options, please feel free to contact us.