Dr. Simon: Spine

Dr. Simon–  V.P. began having problems with her back when she was 12 years old. She was a competitive gymnast at the time, and the 24 hours of training a week had put excessive stress on her back. As a result, she developed stress fractures in her spine that never healed, which allowed for excess motion where her spine joined her pelvis.

Initially she was able to put up with the discomfort, but in time it got worse. Sometimes the pain was so bad, she couldn’t go to school. “It felt like my back was on fire, so I was told to quit gymnastics and give my body time to heal. Eventually pain prevented me from sleeping. I remember one solid week when I was 14, when I couldn’t sleep at all.” V.P. recalled getting shooting pains down her legs when she rolled over. Eventually neither standing nor sitting were comfortably. After stopping gymnastics and giving her back a rest, she felt better. She tried playing other sports but soon found that just turning the wrong way could cause excruciating pain that lasted for days.

V.P. tried physical therapy but it too aggravated her condition. Two attempts with bracing her back were also unsuccessful. The last treatment she tried before deciding to undergo surgery was personal training at a gym that specialized in sports-related injuries. “My back stopped hurting for at least four years and then all of a sudden, the pain came back one summer,” she said. “I decided to do the surgery because I was sick of being in pain.”

In order to reestablish a solid connection between the spine and the pelvis, Dr. Scott Simon, assisted by Dr. Paul Apostolides, performed a minimally invasive decompression and spinal fusion on Vicki in June 2009. They removed the disc between L5 and S1 and replaced it with bone and a small cage. Through two small, one-inch incisions, they placed screws into the two vertebrae and connected them with two rods in order to immobilize the vertebrae to allow them to fuse together.

V.P. spent three days in the hospital and recovered at home over the next two weeks, after which she gradually went back to driving and getting around on her own. “I’m very glad I had the surgery. Now I’m back to living a normal life. I get a full night’s sleep and wake up without my back hurting. I am even back to weight training and using the elliptical at school. (VP)