Student Athlete to Patient: A Spinal Champion® Spotlight
Abigail B. went from being a student athlete to a spine patient in a matter of months. From her youth to her college years she did dance, color guard, boxing, and conditioning. One day as she worked as a nanny, she recalls moving the wrong way, and all at once, something wasn’t right in her back.
Abigail never quite recovered from this initial incident, and flare ups grew more common over time.
“I couldn’t imagine not living an active lifestyle anymore, but unfortunately had to step away from many of my favorite activities as my flare ups became worse,” Abigail said. “The official diagnosis was degenerative disc disease, attributed to genetics, since I didn’t fall into the old age or trauma category. The last three levels of my spine showed degeneration and instability.”
Abigail recalls that many treatments just felt like “temporary fixes” rather than long term solutions. As a young woman with so much ahead of her, she needed to find a treatment that worked for her.
“I tried physical therapy, medication – I practically lived on prednisone steroids – cortisone shots, and eventually was told to just do nothing until symptoms calmed down. Slowly I was doing less so I wouldn’t cause things to flare up again.” She opted for surgery, and six months later was literally running again. “The first two miles I did around my neighborhood, and I couldn’t believe I was pain-free at this point! Just working through some muscle soreness and range-of-motion, but really living a pain-free life.”
Abigail spent the next six months working on her recovery, regaining strength at the gym and getting back to her active lifestyle.
“In 2019, I had part two of the surgery, which was a hardware removal. I had a ton of bone regrowth, everything was strong and stable, and all signs pointed to removing this hardware so I could continue down my active path.”
Unfortunately, the disc that Abigail and her surgeon had chosen to leave alone began to act up as soon as the hardware was removed. After about ten months of trying to work through it, they discovered her degenerated L-3 disc was now torn.
“The good news was my disc was a really good candidate for stem cell therapy treatment. Although frustrating, stem cell therapy treatment was the best thing to happen to me. I felt immediate relief from the procedure. I felt very, very lucky.”
In 2021, Abigail found out she was expecting her first child and was able to have a healthy pregnancy, free from back pain.
“Getting pregnant always scared me with my back pain history, but going through these treatments have allowed me to lead a normal, pain-free life. My best advice is, don’t give up. The road may not be easy, but three years and three procedures were exactly what I needed. If I had given up after the first procedure, I would never have experienced how good it could get. I trusted the process and my doctors, and had to put in the hard work. But it is possible to get better.”
If you are struggling with back pain, the National Spine Health Foundation has got your back! We invite you to join private our support group and learn more about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and most importantly recovery.
You can also hear the rest of Abigail’s story and additional Spinal Champion stories on the Get Back to It Podcast.