If My Story Sounds Similar To You, My Best Advice Is This: Don’t Wait.
My back pain all began way back at John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia. Because of my back, I missed the first four football games of my senior year. I struggled thereafter in almost any activity, trying to play racquetball, weight lift, or run. Over the years, I paid dearly for any activity and as my back was collapsing, even suffered with the most benign activities like holding my children.
This malady has been with me for over 30 years. I must have purchased every over the counter solution and spent thousands on the promises. I had been in physical therapy and used medications. I probably had 8-12 steroid shots in my back and even facet joint radiofrequency ablation (RFA) over the last 20 years. I was giving up. I use to think I could exercise my way back to good health. It just wasn’t possible with my condition.
Sometimes the timing is just right. I went to a 50th wedding anniversary and saw a friend there who was younger than me walking with a cane. When I inquired as to what happened, he told me about Dr. Schuler and insisted that I drop whatever Doctor or program I was on, and set an appointment. The care I received at Virginia Spine Institute was great! With the skill of Dr. Schuler and his surgical physician assistant, Thao Allen, I can with confidence recommend their services.
With x-rays taken at Virginia Spine Institute, it was discovered that I had an “isthmic spondylolisthesis” which means I had an old stress fracture injury in my back at one of the vertebrae and it caused the bones to be unstable and slip forward. My stress fracture was probably from my high school football days when I first injured my back. My disc at that level was almost completely collapsed; it had been wearing down over the years and wasn’t useful anymore. It was also pinching my nerves as they no longer had room. I had other discs in my back that had problems and may have caused pain. I needed an EMG nerve study test and a discography to help determine the best and least invasive treatment. I was ready to get this fixed for good. I ended up having a staged surgery to fix my stress fracture, restore height to my disc space, remove pressure from my nerves and stabilize my back. It was called a DLIF, or Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion and then a PIF, Posterior Instrumented Fusion.
I have to admit, the first three months after surgery were difficult for me because I am so used to doing everything, for everybody. I had to take it easy for my back to heal properly and limit my bending, lifting and twisting. Thao Allen was a fantastic asset. I had to trust in her confidence as I would at times get discouraged in my healing process. She was a great encourager and everything she said would come to pass, did. I saw slow and steady improvement.
Since my surgery six months ago, I have experiences many activities that I thought I would never do again. Now, I ride my bike for 10 miles without getting off feeling like I just got hit by a truck. I run on a treadmill which before was completely out of the question, unless I didn't want to walk the next day. I am able to swing my grandson around, throw him into the air with confidence that I am not going to wreck my back for the next three days. Every Saturday now, I work around my house trimming shrubs, clipping trees, weed eating and sometimes, every muscle hurts EXCEPT for my back.
I ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill with no problems. A year ago, I would have been walking around like an old man for three days. I also had a breakthrough in golf this weekend and was finally able to swing with enough confidence and motion to drive the ball between 225 and 250 yards. It's all coming together very nicely!