I first injured my back doing gymnastics when I was 15. The damage was insignificant at first, and deteriorated slowly. For 8 years I was in and out of physical therapy with lingering dull back pain that was never debilitating. I began running in college, and when I was 23, started feeling pain in both legs and feet. At first I thought it was shin splints from running, until both feet started going numb. When each step sent pain shooting down my legs, even after I stopped running, I knew I needed help. I spent 14 months in non-operative pain management before I was referred to a surgeon.
Ultimately 4 surgeons told me I was not a surgical patient. One told me I needed to see a psychiatrist, because I could not possibly be experiencing these symptoms at 24 years old. The emotional toll of spending every day on the couch, barely able to move and being told it was in my imagination, was almost as difficult as the physical pain. Asking yourself, “Is this what the rest of my life will be like?” is heart-breaking. Skipping a trip to Disney World with your baby niece is heart-breaking. Turning down invitations to places where you’ll have to sit too long/stand too long/walk too long is heart-breaking. Wondering if you might actually be imagining it, is more painful than I know how to express.
When I found Virginia Spine Institute, I was so nervous they would agree I was making it up. They immediately reassured me that my pain made perfect sense, and not only was I sane, I was fixable. I knew very quickly that I was finally in the right place. They explained to me that my years of pain was a result of a lumbar annular disc tear, which means the fibers in my discs had torn resulting in extreme pain. I underwent an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion less than two months later. Fast forward to now, I am working in the office full time, running without leg pain, traveling to new places, and only laying on the couch when I want to! I even completed a 5k only five months after my surgery! My only regret is not finding Virginia Spine Institute sooner. This surgery could not have been more life-changing, and I owe my life to this awesome team.