When you are 73 years old, most people have some aches and pain primarily from arthritis as I did, but nothing dramatic. I have always been an extremely active person and have participated in some sort of formal exercise for the past 40 years (before that, chasing five children kept me in shape). My belief is “You Rest, You Rust.”
However, after an auto accident, tests showed that I had bulging discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis of L3, L4, L5, and several other complicated names of the on-going processes. I was still mobile, just in some pain. However, my back just seemed to go downhill significantly in the following year. I went to physical therapy for most of the year, a chiropractor, had steroid injections – I did everything that I could. I am an avid swimmer which I continued… amazingly, that did not bother me. However, jumping pool exercises in my water aerobics class did hurt my back. As time progressed I was unable to turn left or right. It was difficult to ride in a car because going around a curve or over a bump or railroad tracks really hurt! I wore a brace for a year which was a big help. My legs began to have pain, and slowly both legs started to become numb starting in the thigh. I could see that I was on a path where, after a period of time, I would be unable to walk! It is quite possible that the auto accident was not the specific cause of my problem. It may have occurred in time due to age and back irregularities.
Treatment & Recovery
Eight months after the beginning of my problems, I started looking for someone who could help me. In my career, I was a Medical Technologist and a Researcher, so this was a new research project for me. I wanted to know everything, and to find the best solution. I didn’t want just anyone working on my body. I saw orthopedic and neurosurgeons in Baltimore, Harrisburg, Washington, DC, and Virginia. I chose Dr. Christopher Good at Virginia Spine Institute, who performed a spinal fusion with instrumentation. My experience before, during, and after surgery with Dr. Good and his staff was superior. He was so kind, empathetic, and certainly very experienced.
After a little more than a year post surgery, I can’t tell you how many days I thank God and Dr. Good for the ability to live life fully. I can garden and I recently challenged myself to a five mile hike. I am able to do most anything and I am so grateful to have my life back – even better than before surgery. Truthfully, I was in a lot more pain than I realized. These situations come on so insidiously and you just “put up with it”.
My suggestion to others with similar conditions is try all modalities available before surgical intervention – this is what the doctors would insist anyway. Do exactly what they say. Do as much as allowed in movement and exercise, gradually decrease pain medication, and include exercise as #1 in your daily routine forever! After surgery I continued to improve: at three months I thought I felt really good, then at six months I felt so much better, and at a year I could truly tell how much stronger my back had become!