Pain Management

Modern spinal surgery is providing dramatic and immediate relief from chronic, debilitating back pain and restoring physical agility through innovative interpretations of traditional orthopedic techniques. Learn about the Spinal Diagnostic and Treatment Center.

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Chronic Back Pain

Surgical Expertise Brings Relief

Modern spinal surgery is providing dramatic and immediate relief from chronic, debilitating back pain and restoring physical agility through innovative interpretations of traditional orthopedic techniques. Persons suffering from such acute, physical distress are finding answers to the cause of their pain at Texas Orthopedic Hospital and are choosing an orthopedist specializing in reconstructive spinal surgery to manage their care. When 44-year-old Bob Lewellen visited the hospital, he had some tough questions, and Jeffrey Kozak, M. D., had all of the right answers.

"When patients educate themselves and participate actively in the treatment process, that is fifty percent of the effort. The surgeon's expertise insures a successful result."

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"When Mr. Lewellen first came to see me, his back pain was disrupting all aspects of his life - - the ability to work at a physically demanding job, his enjoyment of recreational and family activities, and the need to sleep through the night pain-free," says Dr. Kozak, a board-certified reconstructive spinal surgeon who practices at Texas Orthopedic Hospital. "Like so many people who don't know effective treatment is available," says Dr. Kozak, "Mr. Lewellen had given up hope and suffered constant pain." Bob Lewellen had suffered longer than most.

For more than twenty years, pain was an ugly and unrelenting part of Lewellen's life. "There was never a moment when I wasn't in pain," recalls Lewellen. "It was just a question of, 'how much pain can I bear today?'" Over time, the gradual degeneration of several lumbar discs forced Lewellen to adopt a stooped posture and an awkward manner of carrying himself. Adding strain to pain, the otherwise healthy Lewellen could ask little more of his weakened body. When a stabbing pain tore through his back and burned down his legs one evening, Lewellen was brought to his knees "and, fortunately, to my senses," he says. "My wife, Linda, and I agreed; it was time to see a specialist."

A ubiquitous complaint, chronic back pain is second only to upper respiratory conditions as a cause of all doctor office visits. Approximately 70% of Americans suffer recurring back pain during their lifetime, costing employers millions of dollars in lost productivity each year. Returning workers to work free-of-pain is one goal of modern spinal surgery.

When medication, physical therapy, or other non surgical options fail to alleviate a patient's symptoms and spinal surgery is indicated, preoperative discussions between patient and surgeon begin. The risks and benefits of surgery, what the procedure can and cannot do, what the patient should expect post-operatively and long-term, and what concerns or fears the patient might have are reviewed. To strengthen the body, a strict regimen of exercise is prescribed prior to surgery - - a six-month exercise program for Mr. Lewellen. Rehabilitative therapy (walking, later swimming and excercycling) is initiated the first evening postoperatively. Dr. Kozak explains that physical activity accelerates the healing process and supports the spine. He adds that because patients experience near-immediate relief from their pain, they can return to their daily routine, to work, or to school following rest and a period of recovery.

"Mr. Lewellen's spinal procedure was two-fold," Dr. Kozak explains." "First, I approached the spine from the front and removed the damaged discs. I then inserted bone graft to stabilize the spine," says Dr. Kozak, describing an anterior lumbar fusion. "Then, the bony projections, or spurs, on the vertebrae were removed from a posterior approach," continues Dr. Kozak. "These had developed over the years and were pressing on the nerves, exacerbating Mr. Lewellen's pain." Metal implants and additional bone graft were then added to further support the spine (posterior lumbar decompression and fusion).

The evening following his morning surgery, Lewellen stood to his full height and walked without pain for the first time in more than two decades. Linda Lewellen says that the change in her husband's personality was just as dramatic. "Pain had become the biggest part of his personality," she says. "Now we have the old Bob back."

Three months after surgery, Lewellen was well on his way to a full recovery. Two months later, he shouldered a 55-pound back pack and hiked across Hawaii. At his six-month evaluation, Bob Lewellen received the good news: the surgery was 100% successful, and he was free to resume a full and physically active life. "Mr. Lewellen contributed greatly to the success of his surgery," says Dr. Kozak. "When patients educate themselves and participate actively in the treatment process, that is fifty percent of the effort. The surgeon's expertise insures a successful result."

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