Bye-bye Back Pain

Scott Wood playing with his grandsons at the parkMore than 65 million Americans suffer from back pain. At some point during our lives, 80 percent of us will experience this discomfort. Fortunately, Augusta Health offers a revolutionary spinal stabilization procedure using the Dynesys® Spinal System to treat patients with nagging back pain.

Back pain often results from disk damage that pinches nerves, also causing loss of motion or leg numbness. Nonsurgical methods, such as anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections and physical therapy, are generally used first to treat these symptoms. If these methods don't provide relief, the standard solution has been to perform lumbar fusion surgery to remove the problem disk or disks and fuse the bones together. However, fused bones can't move naturally, limiting the spine's flexibility.

"By stabilizing the disks, we aim to avoid a lumbar fusion and any loss of motion," explains George Godette, M.D., FAAOS, an orthopedic surgeon at Augusta Health. "This procedure stabilizes the disk at risk rather than removing it. It protects the disks above and below by shouldering some of the stress."

Less pain, faster recovery

Spinal stabilization saves the damaged disk, providing support while protecting neighboring disks from further wear and tear. Flexible spacers and cords keep the bones from moving too far apart or too close together. This push-pull action allows the spine to bend, straighten and twist with ease. "Once the spine is fused, you can't go back. This procedure doesn't burn any bridges," says Dr. Godette. "The Dynesys System can always be changed to a standard fusion later, if need be."

The minimally invasive Dynesys technique allows patients to get back to their usual activities more quickly. "There's no waiting time, no bracing and no painful bone graft from the patient's hip," says Dr. Godette.

Back at work

One patient who can testify to the quick and pain-relieving results of the procedure is 49-year-old Scott Wood. Three years ago, while at work testing industrial air conditioners, Scott felt a sharp pain in his lower back. A few days later, he had terrible pain when he tried to get up from bed and while he was sitting. Scott went to see Dr. Godette and found out that two of the bones in his vertebrae were touching, forcing the disks to herniate (protrude). "I had a lot of pain and was out of work for 15 months," says Scott. "At home, I had to roll out of bed and grab onto something to pull myself up. I couldn't sit for very long without my back feeling like it had locked up. The worst part is that I couldn't play with my grandkids because the pain was so bad."

After anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and cortisone injections failed to provide relief, Scott opted for spinal stabilization surgery. "Today, I can move and bend over like I was never injured or had surgery," says Scott. "I'm so relieved to be back at work. But mostly, I'm happy that I can run around with my grandchildren again."

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Is spinal stabilization right for you?

Patients who've tried standard treatments without success may be candidates for this procedure. "This system can be used for younger active patients but is also available for older patients who have good bone quality," says orthopedic surgeon George Godette, M.D., FAAOS. Stabilization can help patients who have:

  • degenerative disk disease, or deterioration of the disks
  • spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that causes pressure on the nerves and spinal cord
  • spondylolisthesis, a condition in which "slipped disks" move onto the bones below
  • dynamic nerve root impingement, or dried-up disk space that causes joints to move abnormally