TRUE STORY: JACQUIE’S PASSPORT TO A PAIN-FREE LIFE HELPS HER REACH IMPRESSIVE WORLD TRAVELING GOALS
I had constant neck pain and numbness in my fingers. I started dropping glasses of water without even having a sensation of dropping. Then I had my first neck surgery… not from Virginia Spine. Ten years later, the symptoms returned only more acute. Then I had my second neck surgery…from yet another neurosurgeon. After just a few more years, my neck pain returned; and my lower back and right hip were painful; making it difficult to sleep. At this point, I was very discouraged- believing that I would become more debilitated with pain over time. My daily life was being affected; I dreaded going to bed because the hip pain would be constant and therefore I couldn’t sleep well. Walking was bothersome; by late afternoon as the pain increased, I was done for the day.
My greatest fear was that my quality of life would be limited. I wouldn’t get to see the world in the way I wanted to. As my symptoms grew worse, I feared I would not be able to travel.
I had my first appointment with a surgeon; he reviewed my case in great detail and gave me confidence that there were several alternatives available to me other than surgery. Although at some point surgery might be indicated. I next worked with the physical therapy department; we travel 80% of the time, so multiple visits were not very workable. However, they got me started by giving me stretches and exercises to do on my own. They even showed my husband what I needed to do so he could coach me.
Later, I was referred to the pain management department and met with Dr. Nguyen. Once again he assured me that he could help me manage the pain. That assurance has made all the difference to me. He gave me cortisone shots in my hips (SI joints), which allowed me to walk easier. He explained that I could continue to receive cortisone injections over time. This was a relief to me as I thought it was not an on-going therapy. However, that was not the total answer. My hips continued to be chronically painful.
The great news is: if some therapy isn’t working just right, the doctor suggests trying another approach or additional treatment… until the right thing worked for me. Dr. Nguyen then recommended a procedure called Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA). RFA is an image guided procedure to pin-point the nerve area and using a high frequency radio wave “deadens” the nerves’ ability to transmit pain signals to the brain. It made a major difference. I have had this procedure on both SI joints and on my upper spine. The results have lasted about 2 years.
My therapy is a combination of treatments: on-going cortisone injections; Radio Frequency Ablation on a periodic basis; oral pain medication; and topical pain patches. My husband and I continue to travel 80% of the time. Now, I am pain free enough and agile enough to do sometimes arduous travel. A year ago we climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It took training and persistence, but I was exhilarated to achieve this goal.
Another travel goal was to travel to Antarctica and walk on the continent. Again, the travel was arduous with travel excursions in zodiacs. But, we did it! We visit Africa every year or every other year. The hiking is hard, but I can do it.
More than anything I want to see our world.
Before we leave for extended travel, I make an appointment to see Dr. Nguyen as soon as we get home. Sometimes, I get in pain and struggle a bit, but I am confident that Dr. Nguyen and the staff at Virginia Spine Institute will help me every step of the way.
Keep talking to the doctors and staff.
Keep a journal so you can describe what you experience.
Schedule regular follow-up visits.
Realize no one thing is a silver bullet; try whatever is next recommended.
It can change your life.
Thank you to my team!
- Dr. Nguyen - Pain Management Specialist