Darrin enjoys running marathons and other endurance challenges. But for several years he had been experiencing a constant dull pain in his low back. The low back pain Darrin experienced would be severe at times, he found that alternating between standing or sitting would help relieve some of his symptoms. But the severe pain would return. Darrin visited his family practitioner about his back pain symptoms. His doctor prescribed nonsurgical spine care such as physical therapy and epidural injections to help relieve the symptoms.
Darrin attended physical therapy and received epidural injections and both offered some temporary relief. Unfortunately, his dull back ache never went away and he continued to experience intermittent severe low back pain which would radiate into his right leg. Through all of the pain, Darrin did not give up his love of running. He would run through the pain.
Darrin was on a family cruise when he experienced back pain so excruciating he was unable to pick up his two year old son. Darrin knew then he couldn’t continue living with this problem. He soon visited his family doctor, who ordered an MRI, his doctor then referred him to Dr. James Lynch, a fellowship-trained spine neurosurgeon at Swift Spine Institute.
Darrin made an appointment with Dr. Lynch, who reviewed an MRI of his back. Dr. Lynch explained to Darrin that he had degenerative disc disease at L5/S1 with disc collapse compressing nerve roots. This condition occurs as the discs age, become more brittle, less resilient and more prone to herniation. EMG results confirmed nerve damage.
Dr. Lynch then discussed with Darrin his treatment options. He could continue the conservative care, including physical therapy and injection therapy. Because Darrin had already tried the non surgical options, Dr. Lynch also talked with Darrin about the mini-open ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) procedure. This procedure involves removing part of the damaged disc while a portion of the disc is left behind to help contain the bone graft material. Dr. Lynch emphasized to Darrin that surgery was not absolutely necessary but was likely the best option for complete relief of pain and return to activity. While he was apprehensive about spine surgery, after much research and consideration, Darrin decided to move forward with the ALIF procedure.
Dr. Lynch performed the L5-S1 ALIF procedure and removed a part of the damaged disc, then inserted a cage into the empty disc space. This realigned the vertebral bones and relieved pressure on the nerves. A small plate was placed over the L5- S1.
Darrin’s surgery was a success, he experienced relief from the pain symptoms and was walking without pain within five days. Within a month he was able to jog a mile several times a week. Two months after surgery, Darrin was able to return full time to his job as a police officer. He was also able to gradually increase his running mileage.
“I was anxious about spine surgery, but Dr. Lynch provided the confidence and reassurance that made surgery an easy decision for me,” Darrin reflects. Today he is able to live an active life without the low back pain or leg pain symptoms he had lived with for years.