For much of his adult life, internist Michael Stachowski, M.D., experienced back pain, but he never let the discomfort interfere with his busy medical practice.
Last March, while he and his wife were visiting their daughter in Louisiana, the pain became severe and started to radiate down into his leg. It soon became so difficult to move that he had to stop and buy a walker to keep up with his family.
When Dr. Stachowski returned from vacation, he immediately sought medical advice from colleagues at Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH). Several of the physicians he consulted came to the same conclusion: arthritis was causing two vertebrae (the bones that protect the spinal cord) to slip. Their misalignment was pinching a nerve and causing his excruciating pain and discomfort. They suggested surgery to fuse the vertebrae into their correct position and relieve the pressure on the nerve.
In an effort to avoid surgery, Dr. Stachowski first tried several less invasive treatments, including epidural injections in his back and physical therapy. But he still struggled with pain.
Meanwhile, he continued using a walker while he treated patients in his office and made rounds at LCMH. “It was getting tiresome and I was in a lot of pain, plus I was losing muscle strength in my legs because I wasn’t exercising or walking normally,” says Dr. Stachowski.
In addition, he was also growing weary of the nonstop input from friends, family and even strangers about how to approach his condition. “When you have back pain, everyone is a doctor,” he says. “People told me that my back would improve on its own, but five months after this started in Louisiana, I felt just as bad.”
It’s Time to Take Action
Last August, tired of feeling miserable and using a walker, Dr. Stachowski decided to have surgery.
“Personally and professionally he was becoming so limited by the pain that it was his best option,” says William Earman, D.O., head of LCMH’s Spinal Surgery Department and the orthopedic surgeon who operated on Dr. Stachowski. “Spinal surgery involves the science of working on the affected area and the art of knowing when to intervene. It was the right time to surgically address Dr. Stachowski’s condition.”
During the procedure, Dr. Earman made an incision along Dr. Stachowski’s spine and used a specialized surgical tool to gently remove bone that was pushing on the nerve. Then he placed in the spine four small screws to act as anchors and connected thin rods through the screws to lock the two vertebrae together. This prevents the vertebrae from slipping back again.
Better Than Ever
For Dr. Stachowski, the success of the procedure was apparent almost immediately.
“As soon as I woke up after surgery, my pain was gone. The next day I could walk without assistance, so I knew Dr. Earman had done a good job,” says Dr. Stachowski.
Two days after his operation, Dr. Stachowski returned home wearing a brace to protect his back as it healed. After visiting Dr. Earman for a checkup a few weeks later, he gradually resumed his full workload and was back at his health club to perform some light exercises and moderate weightlifting.
Although initially reluctant to undergo surgery, he was thrilled at the results.
“This procedure provided great deal of relief for Dr. Stachowski,” says Dr. Earman. “Like all patients who undergo back surgery at LCMH, he benefited from personalized care and state-of-the-art technology from our team of professionals whose main goal is to provide quality services that enhance an individual’s health and quality of life.”