Back in the Game: Mike Kotz’s Journey from Herniated Disc to Tennis Triumph

[00:00:00] Rita Roy: Hi everyone. I’m Dr. Rita Roy, CEO at the National Spine Health Foundation, and I’m your host for the Get Back to It podcast, where we tell real stories of healing and recovery. What does it mean to get back to it?

It means overcoming spine conditions through treatments that work in order to return to the people and activities you love, whatever that looks like for you. It means getting back to your life. We’re here to share the success stories of those who did just that. And some of these stories you’re not going to believe. At the Get Back To It podcast, our goal is to tell stories of spinal champions who’ve been able to achieve a better quality of life through spinal health care. In today’s episode, I’m delighted to be speaking with Mike Cotts, a tennis pro who started having severe pain down his leg in April. In June, he had a successful surgery to repair a ruptured disc.

Within weeks, he was back to work and teaching on the tennis courts. Now that you know what to expect, let’s get back to it and dive right into Mike’s story. Seven weeks before Mike had his surgery, he began experiencing severe leg pain.

[00:01:21] Mike Kotz: From day one, the pain in my leg was very intense. I could walk, forget about teaching tennis, because I could barely walk. It was a big struggle and it was extremely painful.

[00:01:34] Rita Roy: Every couple of days, the pain in Mike’s leg moved to a different spot, and he could feel the nerve running down his leg. So he went to see an orthopedic surgeon.

[00:01:45] Mike Kotz: At first, the orthopedic surgeon and I thought it was a knee problem, but the orthopedist suspected it was a lower back problem because the pain kept moving in my leg. Also, every day, about 20 to 25 times a day, I would get a super sharp, super intense pain in my quad. for about two seconds. That made me shriek and also freeze in my tracks every time.

After six weeks, I had an MRI and in week eight was in surgery to repair a ruptured disc. the size of my pinky finger that was hitting the nerve, which was causing all the pain down my right leg.

[00:02:29] Rita Roy: underwent a non invasive microdiscectomy that was extremely successful. Following six weeks of recuperation at home, he was back to work and teaching tennis. After 10 weeks, he resumed playing tennis, doubles matches that is. Mike, your story is important because it shows what success can happen with quick action. You began to experience what sounds like an unbearable amount of pain. Tell us what that was like and how did you feel that, that you knew you had a situation that had gotten to the point that, that you couldn’t control it and you needed to see expert help.

[00:03:10] Mike Kotz: So after about two days, it started on a night where I came home from the tennis club I work at, Bethesda country club. I had pain in my leg. It was bad, but not debilitating yet. The next day, when I woke up, I had the day off. It was still there, but it was worse. Starting that night for several nights. The pain was behind my knee and was so unbearable that it woke me up every night at two in the morning for about a week.

I wanted to wake my wife up each time and take me to the emergency room. It was that bad, but somehow I didn’t and fell back asleep at five or six in the morning. Those were terrible days.

[00:03:54] Rita Roy: Oh my gosh. And Mike, during that time, were you taking any, um, like Motrin, ibuprofen, naproxen, you know, non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs? What were you doing to manage that pain?

[00:04:07] Mike Kotz: I was definitely taking ibuprofen. I was definitely taking that more than once a day. It wasn’t helping though. That was not, it was not doing anything. So I knew it was something serious.

[00:04:22] Rita Roy: Yeah. Had you ever, being, being a tennis pro for many, many years, had you ever had a leg injury or a knee injury that, that you knew that this was different maybe?

[00:04:32] Mike Kotz: Uh, yeah, so after the first week, So, two years ago, I had a torn meniscus. And it was bad, but it was not as bad as this. and that was in one location, so we knew it was my knee right off the bat. And that got fixed pretty quickly. This was completely different because the pain kept moving. And the, even before the torn meniscus was healed, I was still teaching up until the day of the surgery. I taught about one lesson a week with this. up until the surgery and it was excruciating.

[00:05:06] Rita Roy: Yeah. That’s, that’s so, such a typical story. You know, we, we talk about in the foundation, there’s a difference between what we call axial pain or like body pain, you know, um, something, something that’s hurting a torn muscle or a pulled muscle. That pain, while it’s very real and, and it hurts. it’s, it’s somehow manageable.

Nerve pain, completely different situation, right? So nerve pain versus axial pain. There’s no way to describe that kind of pain that comes from nerve pain. I mean, it just is unrelenting. Um, and that I have personally experienced that. And when I talk with people who’ve had that, they sort of corroborate that, that there’s just like nothing would touch this thing.

[00:05:49] Mike Kotz: Yeah. What was also interesting was so for six weeks I didn’t know what it was till I had the MRI and then it still took another week. So for six weeks, uh, well the orthopedic surgeon suspected it was back pain after three weeks and he called for the, MRI. But during one of those weeks when I didn’t know what it was, my wife and I had to go to Colorado.

Uh, Boulder, Colorado For a wedding, I had to stand up on the five hour plane for half the flight. I couldn’t sit down. It was excruciating. Of course, had I known that I had a ruptured disc in my back, I wouldn’t have gone on the trip, but I didn’t. Didn’t know what it was at that point.

[00:06:31] Rita Roy: Yeah, well, I guess the unintended consequence of not knowing is he didn’t have to miss the wedding.

[00:06:36] Mike Kotz: That’s true. That is true. Even though it was painful that whole weekend, it was a fun wedding. So that’s correct.

[00:06:43] Rita Roy: yeah, but you know to your point on those long flights, I mean, we tell people who are not having an acute situation like you were having with that ruptured disc there, we tell people all the time just for good preventative spine health care, on a long flight, get up once an hour, at least once an hour, take a walk to the bathroom, walk to the back or the front of the plane and just move a little bit.

Don’t sit in that one position for more than an hour. It’s just not good for your back. Hip flexors get tight. That, you know, goes, you know, all the way up the chain. So, you know, you can even find yourself really bad neck pain just from, from, you know, stemming from your, you know, your hips being tight and moves up your back and moves up into the neck.

And the whole spine is, is funky at that point. So good idea. Good reminder to when you’re traveling, uh, make sure that you get up, move and do some, do some little stretches if you can.

[00:07:38] Mike Kotz: Yeah. That, that, that helped alleviate it a little.

[00:07:42] Rita Roy: A little, a little. Did you find that was with, did sitting hurt more than standing?

[00:07:47] Mike Kotz: Yes, absolutely. The sitting position was definitely worse than standing. Walking was really bad, but standing one spot was a little better than sitting. Although, one of the lessons that I have to teach, um, I mentioned this to you when we were talking, Rita, is called live ball. And basically, the pro can be in one spot, just feeding balls.

It’s for an hour and a half. I had to do it for an hour and a half. Again, I didn’t know what was going on. And I could barely make it through five minutes, but I had to do it for an hour and a half.

[00:08:22] Rita Roy: Oh my gosh.

[00:08:23] Mike Kotz: was just, and I was like, why can’t I balance? Why, why am I having, you know, why can’t I stand for an hour and a half like I used to?

It was, it was incredible because it was, it was the not knowing part that was also really bad too.

[00:08:37] Rita Roy: Did you, were you afraid at that point? Were you fearful?

[00:08:41] Mike Kotz: I was pretty, to use the word, freaked out. Yes, I was more than freaked out. I was super scared. Didn’t know what was going on because at that point the MRI hadn’t been, uh, I don’t think, you know, during some of those, I hadn’t had the MRI even. Uh, so I didn’t know what was going on. I, uh, it was extremely scary.

[00:09:03] Rita Roy: What, and what, what, what do you think the fear was? Was it the fear that you might have some permanent damage or just fear of the unknown? Like what, what were the things that went through your mind?

[00:09:13] Mike Kotz: exactly. It was the fear of the unknown and it was the fear of why can’t I do something that I used to be able to do? Because again, it hadn’t been diagnosed. So it was like, why can’t I do something that I did two months ago for an hour and a half? I, after five minutes, I’m having pain. So it was the fear of the unknown and just is, will it ever get better?


[00:09:37] Rita Roy: Yeah, that’s, that’s that thing. It’s like, am I gonna be able to get back to my life, right?

[00:09:42] Mike Kotz: exactly.

[00:09:43] Rita Roy: and, and Mike, your pain, was it mostly just in your leg or did you have back pain also? Or was it really just in the leg?

[00:09:51] Mike Kotz: I had no back pain whatsoever, wouldn’t have suspected it was my back at all. I’ve had relatively, up till now, relatively little back pain my whole life. So it was totally in my right leg and never even suspected it was my back until the orthopedist brought it up.

[00:10:10] Rita Roy: Yeah. Well, so getting back to that journey with the orthopedist. So three weeks, uh, after seeing him for the first time, you’re not improving, you’re not getting better. And that’s when he decided time to get an MRI. Let’s see what’s going on in your back,

[00:10:25] Mike Kotz: That, that’s correct. So I went back to him. I explained to him that the pain was moving all over my leg. And in some spots it wasn’t as bad as others. And in some spots. It was just totally killer. It was awful. So he said, I don’t think it’s your knee anymore. I think it’s your lower back. Let’s call for a, uh, MRI.

[00:10:48] Rita Roy: Mm hmm. Mm

[00:10:48] Mike Kotz: So he ordered the MRI which takes a while. Once you call up, it takes about two weeks. They’re very, I guess they’re very backed up. Uh, so I had that about, it might’ve been three weeks. So it might’ve been

[00:11:03] Rita Roy: Frustrating. It’s frustrating to wait that long when you’re in pain.

[00:11:07] Mike Kotz: It was for what the other thing too is I’m ashamed to admit it. I can’t do open MRI. I can’t go in the tunnel so, uh, I So I had to do Washington open MRI And that that added to how long it was it was two weeks

[00:11:24] Rita Roy: to the weight,

[00:11:25] Mike Kotz: Yeah that added to wait so it was two weeks after that when he

[00:11:28] Rita Roy: but, but I mean, that’s, that’s a reality. Yeah. That, but that’s a reality of the journey is that, okay, you’re a person that can’t be in the tube. You need the open MRI that takes maybe a little bit longer. And now, you know, you had the pain for a while. Then you went to see the orthopedist, three weeks go by.

Then he orders the MRI, another two weeks go by to find out what’s, what’s actually going on. I want to ask you about that three week interval from the time that you first saw the orthopedist to the time that he ordered the MRI. So in those three weeks, did he ask you, were there things that you were trying to do to manage the pain that weren’t getting better?

[00:12:08] Mike Kotz: Uh, no, so what happened was he was And rightfully so, because of what had happened two years earlier, he and I were pretty sure it was my knee. And he said, why don’t you set up an appointment for three weeks down the road, just in case. But I think it’s wear and tear in your knee. We did an x ray.

There’s a, there’s a little bit of arthritis in there, a little bit of wear and tear. I think it’s your knee. So I guess he told me to stay on the ibuprofen. You know, teach, but not go overboard in matches or any other things and that it would be better. But he said, set up an appointment just in case, which luckily I did because it didn’t get better because that’s not what it

[00:12:52] Rita Roy: it wasn’t better. Yeah, so kudos to that orthopedist because we often, um, educate people that, you know, if you have back pain, give it two weeks, two or three weeks, take some over the counter, you know, non steroidal anti inflammatory medication, maybe see physical therapy, take it easy, keep moving, but just rest, rest a little bit.

Don’t, don’t, don’t go overboard and see how you’re feeling in two weeks, two or three weeks. And if you’re not feeling better. Yeah,

[00:13:23] Mike Kotz: Yeah. I forgot. He did prescribe a six day course of steroids. You jogged my memory. I just remembered that. So it didn’t

[00:13:31] Rita Roy: yep, and that didn’t help. So that, that, those are, conservative treatments. Let’s use medic, conservative meaning, let’s use medication. Let’s see if we can get some inflammation to settle down and let’s see if that pain kind of simmers down. Let’s give it two, two to three weeks. so very, very typical course there and then, but after three weeks if things aren’t getting better, it’s time to do something different.

So you got the MRI. So when you got, you finally got the MRI, did you go back to the orthopedist for the results of that?

[00:14:02] Mike Kotz: So this is the interesting part of another interesting part of the story. After three weeks, I had the MRI and I had the disc. I had the disc, of the MRI. And the appointment for the orthopedist was it about eight days after that MRI, another appointment with him. In the meantime, at the club that I work at, and this was over Memorial Day weekend, I was working and I was sitting in a chair and a man walked in who I did not know.

And he said, can you get me a racket? Uh, for my nine year old, I want to hit with my nine year old who was with him. When I stood up out of the chair, I had one of the shooting moments in my quad where I shrieked and froze. This gentleman said to me, what’s going on? I told him, he said, I’m a neurosurgeon at that point, I said to myself, my mom’s watching over me.

She passed in 2020. So anyways, he said, sit back down in the chair. He ran his hand down my leg. He said, your squad is unbelievably weak. He said, I want to tell you some good news in that you don’t have much nerve damage. Not much at all. But he said your quad is extremely weak. That’s why you’re getting that pain.

then what he said is, did you have an M. R. I. So luckily I did a week earlier, And granted, remember, I did not know him before this happened. He

[00:15:41] Rita Roy: That’s amazing.

[00:15:42] Mike Kotz: he’s a club member, but I didn’t know him. It was Memorial Day weekend. He said, give me your name, your birthday, where you had that MRI.

I’m going to access it this afternoon from my house and call you back. It’s amazing.

[00:15:59] Rita Roy: Amazing.

[00:16:00] Mike Kotz: Things were starting to fall a little into place after six weeks. So, six hours later, this was nine in the morning when this happened. In the meantime, uh, he went out to play tennis. I have two friends who are high up at Georgetown Hospital in MedStar.

I called them with the name of the doctor, and one of them said, Oh my God, Mike, you could not be in any better hands with a neurosurgeon.

[00:16:30] Rita Roy: That’s amazing.

[00:16:31] Mike Kotz: I work with him every single day of the week. Monday through Friday.

[00:16:35] Rita Roy: Wow.

[00:16:37] Mike Kotz: So then he called. So now I knew, uh, that I was, things

[00:16:42] Rita Roy: the right hands. Yeah. In the right hands.

[00:16:44] Mike Kotz: things were looking a teeny bit better than the previous six weeks.

So he called back. He explained, to me what was going on. He said, you have a ruptured disc. And he said, it’s badly ruptured, but it’s not the worst. He said, if it was the worst, you would have been in the hospital weeks ago. But he said, it’s, it’s, it’s bad. So then he set up an appointment for Tuesday because Monday, this, uh,

[00:17:10] Rita Roy: was a holiday.

[00:17:11] Mike Kotz: was a holiday.

He said, be at my office Monday at nine. And I said, I said, well, how is everybody in your office going to know it’s Sunday and tomorrow’s the holiday? He said, they’ll be expecting you.

[00:17:22] Rita Roy: Oh, man.

[00:17:23] Mike Kotz: sure enough, I had an appointment at Georgetown Hospital with Dr. Deshmuke Tuesday at 9 a. m. And they were waiting for me and walked me right in.

He showed me the MRI. He showed me the rupture. He also explained, as you’re familiar with, the non invasive

[00:17:46] Rita Roy: Mm hmm.

[00:17:46] Mike Kotz: microdiscectomy that would take place in the surgery. And he said, do you want to do it? And I said, I want to do it yesterday. So, uh,

[00:17:55] Rita Roy: Wow.

[00:17:56] Mike Kotz: so I said, how soon can I have it? This was a Tuesday. He said, I’m getting you in on Monday.

[00:18:01] Rita Roy: Wow.

[00:18:03] Mike Kotz: And, uh,

[00:18:04] Rita Roy: that is amazing. That’s amazing.

[00:18:07] Mike Kotz: that’s the story. And I had it. My wife drove me and I had it that Monday.

[00:18:11] Rita Roy: So, microdiscectomy, minimally invasive, you know, not, not, not non invasive but, but minimally invasive, right, is how that procedure goes.

[00:18:21] Mike Kotz: Yes. Yeah. Uh, and it was, oh, and one of the questions I asked. Because I do teach tennis was I said, what chance is there of paralysis from this? It was one of my major questions. What percentage of chance will I be paralyzed from the surgery? And he said, 0 percent from this surgery, 0%.

So of course, then I wanted to do it. He said, the other thing I should tell you is when you wake up from the surgery, after the anesthesia, all that leg pain will be gone. The second you wake up. And sure enough, it was

[00:19:00] Rita Roy: That is a miracle. That is a miracle. So you woke up and you’re like, oh my gosh, my, my leg feels normal.

[00:19:07] Mike Kotz: exactly after, after six plus seven. Oh, well, six weeks. Yeah. Uh, after seven weeks, correct. It was completely normal and, uh, it was amazing. Amazing.

[00:19:21] Rita Roy: that is amazing. I love this story so much. There’s so many pearls of wisdom in what you’ve just shared with me. and I’m just going to kind of summarize some of those things. Number one. A very caring individual who sees you and says, wait a second, let me do a quick exam here. So he does a quick neurologic exam and he does a quick assessment and says, come see me in my office.

Let me take a look at that. That is a gift. Um, so what a, what a wonderful humanitarian your doctor is. thing there is you, you did something that we, we often advise people to do is, is when you’re choosing a doctor, how do you know that you’ve got the right doctor, right? You call friends, you, you know, we, we all know people who know somebody, either someone who works at a hospital, someone in the family who’s a nurse, this is just really good advice that many of the.

Doctors on our medical and scientific board, you know, suggest is, you know, talk to somebody. Don’t just look at health grades or something that’s on the internet, although that, that can be helpful. The reviews can be helpful, but just talk to people and you’ll get a sense, especially if in the hospital that they might be working in, you’ll get a sense right away if you’re in the right hands.

And so you quickly did that and you were. Very, you know, able to easily ascertain I’m in really good hands. I am in the hands of an expert, well trained surgeon who’s going to fix this for me.

[00:20:47] Mike Kotz: That’s exactly what happened. Um, the doctors who referred them, uh, Dr. And Dr. Evans have referred a couple of doctors to me. Every one has been amazing. Amazing. uh, so and I did ask Dr Deshmukhe before I, you know, I said, well, how many of these surgeries have you done? And he’s, he’s nowhere as near as old as I am.

He said thousands upon thousands. and he, I don’t know how long he was there, but he was at the Spine Center of North Carolina before coming up to MedStar at Georgetown. He was at the Spine Center, in North Carolina for about 18 years. So I felt completely comfortable.

[00:21:31] Rita Roy: And Mike, how did you know? That’s a very important question to ask. How did you know to ask that question? Because you do want to go to a surgeon that does this procedure a lot. Because surgeons can do different kinds of procedures, right? Some do, you know, disc replacements all the time. Some do, you know, deformity surgery all the time.

Some are doing micro discus. So how did you know to ask that question?

[00:21:55] Mike Kotz: Um, I just… You know, I just knew that I needed somebody who was an expert at that surgery so I could get back to teaching tennis, going out to outings with the family, playing doubles, which I still love, doing a little bit of weightlifting. So I knew I had to ask that question, uh, so that it was somebody who was, had expertise in that surgery.

And also I, I knew to ask that question because. With the torn meniscus, I knew to ask that with the surgeon who repaired my torn meniscus. So, uh, you know, it’s a little bit

[00:22:32] Rita Roy: Yeah,

[00:22:33] Mike Kotz: familiar with questions to ask.

[00:22:35] Rita Roy: yeah, and the reason why I’m spending time discussing this is that a lot of times patients find themselves You know in in a neurosurgeon’s office or an orthopedic surgeon’s office And they it’s a very intimidating place to be right you’re in pain You’re asking somebody to fix you and now you’re going to ask them Is this something you do?

Like how much do you do? You know, a lot of times people feel bad about asking that or they feel like that’s somehow disrespectful to ask that question. And we, we encourage people not to feel that way because you do need to make sure and you need to feel comfortable and confident that you’re in the right place.

Did you have any of those thoughts as you were going through that?

[00:23:18] Mike Kotz: Um, I didn’t, I never had the, uh, I never had the feeling that I did not want to ask that question. I wanted to know the answer. And I guess from my experience again, going back to the torn meniscus. If that surgeon has performed that surgery over and over, they love telling you, they love saying I’ve done it thousands of times and they have no problems telling you.

so once he said that in both cases, I felt really comfortable. And again, like you said, the referral on top of that from people I know who are doctors, that just made it a no brainer for me. Let’s go ahead. Let’s get this, uh, let’s get this ruptured disc taken care of.

[00:24:00] Rita Roy: Yeah. That, that’s amazing. Oh, I wanted to ask you about, um, your spine surgeon being a neurosurgeon, you know, in the field of spine specialization, there, there are two ways that doctors can become a certified spine surgeon. And that is through neurosurgery. or through orthopedic surgery.

And we take time to explain that to people because I think it’s important, for people to look at a, a spine surgeon who has completed fellowship training in spine, whether they’re a neurosurgeon or they’re an orthopedic surgeon, we say, look to make sure that they have done specialty training.

Which is, you know, through a fellowship, an accredited fellowship program in spine surgery. did, did that come up at all for you as you were talking with, with your doctor?

[00:24:50] Mike Kotz: Um, not exactly what, but you did jog my memory in something. on the day that I went down to the office, his office at Georgetown, I also had the orthopedic. surgeon appointment for him to look at the MRI that same afternoon. So my wife very smartly said to me, keep that appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to see if he looks at the MRI and gives you the same second opinion as the neurosurgeon.

So I kept, and he’s a doctor. He just did wonders on my torn meniscus. I mean, So he’s, he’s a wizard too. So I kept that appointment and, uh, he said, look, Mike, you could go one of two ways. He goes, I could send you to PT and you could get a, uh, epidural and, uh, you could have, you know, do a leave and ibuprofen.

And I immediately said, I’m not looking for something that’s going to stay with me the rest of my life. I want to do surgery. And he said, there are no bad choices here. He goes, I think that’s going to be an excellent choice for you. And I think you’re going to do just fantastic with that surgery.

and I don’t think that surgery is his specialty.

[00:26:10] Rita Roy: No. Right. So it sounds like he’s, he’s more focused on knees, probably knees and hips and maybe not, maybe he’s not the spine orthopedic specialist in that practice.

[00:26:20] Mike Kotz: right. He’s a knee expert. He’s, uh,

[00:26:23] Rita Roy: And again, you go, you go to the right provider. for the right problem, right? but how great to use that appointment.

That was so brilliant that you did that to go and hear from another expert who could say, these are the choices, but the choice you’re making is an excellent choice and it’s the right choice for you and it’s definitive treatment.

[00:26:45] Mike Kotz: Yeah. That was totally, my wife’s father was a plastic surgeon. So that was just, you know, growing up with the,

[00:26:54] Rita Roy: Yeah.

[00:26:55] Mike Kotz: her growing up with the dad who was a doctor, that was her advice. And that was tremendous advice.

[00:27:00] Rita Roy: Yeah, really, really great advice. So you know, this, this is such an amazing story because, you know, again, it points to the kinds of outcomes that people can expect to have when it comes to spine treatment. You can get the right treatment for you and get back to your life. Like it’s done, it’s fixed, and you move on.

But there’s still such fear and confusion, and I think there’s a little bit of stigma still out there that, oh, you’ve got a back problem, it’s gonna go on and on, you’re gonna need to have another surgery, it’s gonna, you know, and you may need to have another surgery just because of the way your anatomy is, but the point is, there are great treatments available now.

Miraculous treatments that get people back to their lives pretty quickly.

[00:27:49] Mike Kotz: Yeah, I, I will say this, uh, during, I forgot to mention this during those six weeks, it was pretty rough. I mean, my thoughts, my thoughts were pretty rough. I’m a, I’m a very happy person. Um, I have a pretty positive outlook on life during those six weeks. No, it went the other way. I was, I want to wait till.

For social security, several more years and my brain was going in different directions. I was like, well, I won’t be able to teach tennis. I’ll start social security now. And. I own a house also that I rent. I was like, I’ll be fine. I can sell the house. And,

[00:28:31] Rita Roy: Oh my gosh.

[00:28:32] Mike Kotz: my mind was completely going in other directions during that six weeks.

[00:28:38] Rita Roy: Oh, it’s just that fear, that anxiety, that worry of what’s going to happen is actually a very serious, sort of side effect of having a spine condition. We talk about the mental health, aspects of having to go through a spine condition and it is very real. And there was a report that came out recently that said mental health.

Uh, conditions are the number one, companion disease that happens when you have a diagnosis of a spine condition, uh, that that anxiety and depression, uh, really play a part in, um, inpatient’s, uh, journey as they try to find answers. And that’s what we’re here to do at the foundation.

We’re here to support people. We’re here to say you’re not alone. There are answers out there. you know, come to the foundation, meet the advocates, listen to the podcast, talk to somebody, get support so that you don’t have to feel alone, afraid, isolated, and worried. You can get really good support to get.

to the answers that you need. Um, so I, I thank you for sharing your story and being part of the National Spine Health Foundation, giving that hope and giving solutions to other people. It’s really just awesome to have you spend your time with us. I know you’re busy on the tennis courts. Yay, you’re back on the tennis courts all the time and you’ve carved out the lunch hour here to be with us.

I’m so, so appreciative of

[00:30:06] Mike Kotz: I was more than happy to do it. If this can help one person, if it can help anybody, that’s just a great thing. And another thing I’ll say is, uh, I am back to playing doubles, which I absolutely love. And, uh, for the first. Two matches, three matches. Did I have a hesitation when I ran for a ball, jumped up for a ball?

Hey, it’s going to hurt my back. Yeah, I had a thought or two in that in the back and about the first few matches. It doesn’t even enter my mind. Now I’m doing whatever I want. I’m running a going all out in doubles matches. Those thoughts are gone.

[00:30:43] Rita Roy: That’s

[00:30:44] Mike Kotz: It’s been miraculous.

[00:30:45] Rita Roy: Bravo. Final thoughts as we wrap up our conversation here. You know, a lot of times we say in spine, it’s a journey, right? It’s not a one and done situation. You had your surgery, you got the herniation fixed but now you have to really take care of your spine. We all do. Not just that a person who’s had a surgery, but All of us strengthening our spine, strengthening the core muscles, stretching and staying flexible, working on our balance.

Those are all things that we have to do over time. Has that, have there been changes in your life, Mike? Are you doing things differently or better or the same? Or how has that, how has that impacted your life now?

[00:31:25] Mike Kotz: absolutely. That has changed. I do core exercise. I try and do it every day. I probably do it at least five days out of the week. So probably six days I’m doing core exercises to strengthen my back. And, uh, the doctor had told me my hamstring and quads. So I do that to the hamstring exercises when I do the core exercises.

I really, I wake up every morning and do it. My back feels great. My hamstrings and I do yoga once a week now, and that helps a lot too.

[00:31:59] Rita Roy: That is awesome. That congratulations. That is awesome. I mean, it is a life changing event to have a spine condition strike. and so there are good things that come from that, right? The, the, the silver lining is learned. a lot about how to take care of your spine, this is something that over time, in fact, we just put out some messaging, uh, over the weekend, love your spine over time, you know, as we age, uh, whether you’re 18, 28, 38, 68, you got to take care of that spine at every age and at every stage.

And it just becomes more and more important.

[00:32:36] Mike Kotz: That’s great advice. And it’s so important. Uh, you know, about three people told me before the surgery, Hey, you’re going to have to start doing core exercises. Maybe five people told me you’ll need to start doing core exercises several times a week. I’m doing them. They’re easy. They’re fun. And it’s making a huge difference.

I can tell.

[00:32:58] Rita Roy: I love what you just said. They’re easy, right? These are not complicated exercises. You don’t have to join a gym. You just learn them, do them, wake up, drop down next to your bed, do those stretches in the morning and move on with your day. And it’s just, uh, easy, easy stuff to do that have a huge impact to how we move.

[00:33:18] Mike Kotz: Yeah. In my case, I had a physical therapist. His name’s Isaac. He was tremendous, tremendous. And, uh, I saw him eight. I thought I only wanted to do four sessions. My insurance paid for nine. I did eight sessions with them. Learned, learned all these core exercise about 10 to 12. And I, like I said, I do them religiously and it’s, it’s making a world of difference.

[00:33:44] Rita Roy: Yeah, that’s awesome. So after your surgery, you had physical therapy for recovery.

[00:33:48] Mike Kotz: After four weeks. Yup. For four weeks, I couldn’t do anything. I could take a walk outside.

[00:33:55] Rita Roy: just lay low, walk, keep moving, but just lay low, let it heal, right?

[00:33:59] Mike Kotz: And then after four weeks, the neurosurgeon said, Okay, now it’s the beginning of your life. I said, What do you mean? He said, You can drive straight up. I had to lean back for four weeks. Uh, even when they ate dinner, I had to lean back.

I said, You could drive straight up. You can start your physical therapy. And he said, In two weeks, you could begin teaching beginners in tennis. So it was pretty quick. Yeah.

[00:34:25] Rita Roy: that’s awesome. Well again, Mike, it was just such a delight to meet you and hear your story. Sharing your story with, with the world, with our, our community and with the world will no doubt help someone who’s listening and, and help them understand how to make the best decisions for them.

And, um, and feel supported. So I thank you so very much for being with us today.

[00:34:48] Mike Kotz: Well, thank you, Dr. Roy, for giving me the opportunity to discuss it and that if it helps anybody, I’m so happy about that. So it’s my pleasure to do this really. I’m glad I did it. Thank you.

[00:35:01] Rita Roy: Right. Gosh. Mike, that was beautiful. Thank you for saying that. That was really, really beautiful. We do feel so passionate about our mission here and, um, you know, serving as a voice for patients in spinal health care, there really hasn’t been a, a comprehensive effort like what we’re doing and, um, you know, really means a lot, uh, for, for folks to give their time and, and to share their stories.

So again, I thank you for that. Thank you so very much.

[00:35:26] Mike Kotz: my pleasure. I was more than happy to do it. Thank you.

[00:35:29] Rita Roy: At the National Spine Health Foundation, something we believe in most is providing hope for recovery through sharing stories of success and expertise. It isn’t always easy to find someone to relate to, even though a hundred million adults suffer from a neck or low back pain each year.

To hear more stories of spinal champion recovery and to access educational materials about spine health. Visit us at spine health. org. If you’re interested in supporting our show financially, you can contribute at the link provided. Thank you for listening.

Join us in this episode as Tennis Pro Mike Kotz takes us through his journey from sudden and intense leg pain to a diagnosis of a herniated disc. He worked with an Orthopedic specialist and without improvement, an MRI confirmed his back was the culprit. A lucky encounter at work brought him into expert care with a neurosurgeon. Discover how a successful microdiscectomy got him back on the court, teaching tennis and playing doubles in no time!