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"Every time I go hiking, I'm thrilled that I can walk again without pain and my climbing ability has skyrocketed!" Emily S. Energetic Adventurer


I am a very active person; my main passions are rock climbing and backpacking. Without a fall or reason, I woke up one morning and had trouble feeling my right foot. I sought physical therapy, though it quickly became apparent it wasn’t helping. The leg pain I experienced turned into back pain, at times it was so severe that I was immobilized. At one point the pain became so bad that I couldn’t move for hours. I saw an orthopedic surgeon, and discovered I had a disc herniation in L5/S1 and underwent a series of six spinal injections, all of which failed to help with the back pain.

One morning I woke up and couldn’t move from the waist down on my right side. I thought I was paralyzed. I was scheduled for surgery less than a week later. Recovering seemed to be right on track, I was very cautious with my body and kept my exercising light and low impact.

Nine months had passed and I started to lose feeling in my leg, again. I knew I had to find a better doctor, so after much research I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Good at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Good found that I had a re-herniation in L5/S1 and a new herniation in L4/L5. I also had a DEXA scan, which showed low bone density throughout my lower spine and hips.

A spinal fusion seemed like the best way to go, I was convinced I would never be able to rock climb or back pack again with a spinal fusion. I was also in my senior year at dental hygiene school. I had already repeated a year from my previous surgery, but ultimately the decision came down to graduating that year or walking again.

The surgery with Dr. Good saved my life. I can do nearly everything that I could before; I decided to celebrate my recovery by spending three months in New Zealand, rock climbing, backpacking, caving, ice climbing, surfing and embracing every opportunity. College ended up working out too; I graduated Summa Cum Laude the following semester. Best of all, I moved to my dream location and am loving the mountains!


The advice I would give to someone suffering with back pain would be to not wait to seek treatment and if you’re afraid of surgery, consider which is worse: the life you love now or the life you could soon be living after a successful surgery?

- Emily S.

Thank you to my team!