For all of my adult life I have enjoyed exercising at my local gym. In 2012 I noticed a pain that was happening on a regular basis that would radiate from my upper back area and down my right arm. I had been to physical therapy a couple of times and after an 8-week session noticed that therapy was hurting more than helping. In 2014, I began feeling a loss of strength on my right side. The loss of strength was enough that I had to lower my upper body weights. Then slowly other issues crept up – holding the hair dryer, lifting my grandkids and driving long distances was bothering me in the right arm and upper back areas.
My daughter is an Operating Room nurse and I asked her for a recommendation on a doctor. She quickly answered the team at Virginia Spine Institute. I was impressed with the overall professionalism - they made me feel comfortable and explained the tests they performed on my first visit. An MRI was recommended to obtain a thorough look at my spine issues. I was diagnosed with cervical stenosis with severe stenosis at the base of my neck. Basically that just means the bone channel that holds the spinal nerves was narrowing, putting a lot of pressure on the spinal cord. The team discussed surgery to decompress the nerves and spinal cord and stabilization. I was nervous about spine surgery, especially hearing some stories of friends who had mixed results.
The turning point was when I was rear-ended at a stoplight and 2 weeks later fell out of a kayak. I realized I could have done permanent damage to my neck given my spine was already weakened. The day after I fell out of the kayak, I called Virginia Spine Institute and booked an appointment for surgery. I was fortunate and there was an opening within a month.
I was in the hospital for one night only and only had to wear a neck brace on/off for about 4 weeks. After that I was back to driving.
I strongly feel that exercising for the past 30 years was a major advantage in my recovery. I made a full recovery from surgery with the combination of physical therapy and working with my trainer. My surgery was in June and when I flew to Phoenix in October to visit my 90-year-old mom, I had no trouble with traveling through airports.
My greatest success story was during a visit to my son in Denver in mid-October. I climbed from 7,000 ft to 9,200 ft in Rocky Mountain National Park and had no difficulty climbing over snow and ice and in addition, had no breathing issues! At that moment I realized how lucky I was to have done the surgery with such an outstanding team at Virginia Spine Institute. I no longer have upper back pain when doing long distance driving.
At Virginia Spine Institute I have always been treated with respect, kindness and humor. If you feel your life is compromised or limited by spinal conditions, listen carefully to the advice of the spinal team. If they recommend surgery it can make a big difference in the quality of your life.