Cleapatra Valentine-Comby, 58, knows a thing or two about stamina. She’s been passionate about fitness since she was young. In fact, there are very few activities she hasn’t tried. Roller blades? Check. Martial arts? Check. Aqua boot camp? Check.
With an outgoing spirit, nothing prevented Cleapatra from doing the things she loved – until she encountered chronic back pain. “Three years ago, I started having pain in my left side,” Cleapatra says. “At first, I wrote it off as a muscle strain, but the pain only got worse.”
Self-care for back pain is a good first step
To treat the pain, Cleapatra tried over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, to no avail. In the months that followed, her pain advanced from irritating to debilitating. “I started losing feeling in my legs and began dragging my right foot,” she recalls. “As an athlete, I was used to a twisted ankle or a pulled muscle, but the numbness was frightening.”
Numbness should always be evaluated by a doctor
An MRI revealed the disc that provided cushioning between two vertebrae in Cleapatra’s lower back had worn out, causing painful, bone-on-bone contact. “Honestly, I felt a little cheated,” she says. “I did everything you’re supposed to do to stay healthy, and I still ended up in the doctor’s office.” She needed to find relief that wouldn’t close the door on her active lifestyle.
Enter Dr. Daveed Frazier. “I knew I could treat Cleapatra’s pain with a new surgical procedure that would get her back on her feet in a short amount of time,” says Dr. Frazier, an orthopaedic spine surgeon at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals.
New spine procedure takes a different approach
Cleapatra was the ideal candidate for a type of spine surgery pioneered by Dr. Frazier known as “Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion”, or simply XLIF. This minimally invasive procedure treats spinal disorders such as chronic low-back pain due to spinal stenosis, scoliosis, herniated discs and other deformities. In many cases, the operation can be done in an outpatient setting, allowing patients to return home within one or two days of surgery.
“In traditional spine surgery procedures, just accessing the spine is a fairly disruptive process,” Dr. Frazier explains. “The XLIF procedure approaches the spine from the side, through small incisions between the hip and ribs. This reduces blood loss, post-op infection rates, pain and recovery time.”
XLIF gives patients back mobility
In Cleapatra’s case, Dr. Frazier used the XLIF procedure to place small separators between the vertebrae where the discs had degenerated. “The procedure allows patients to go from debilitating pain to rapid mobility,” he says.
“The first time I saw Dr. Frazier after surgery, I was walking down the hall,” Cleapatra recalls. “The pain was gone.” Two days after the XLIF surgery, on her 56th birthday, she left the hospital and hasn’t looked back since.
“I don’t have the time to look back – I’ve got aqua boot camp three days a week, walks in the park and plenty of dancing to do at summer concerts,” she says.
Learn more about treatments for back pain or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Frazier, visit SLRortho.com or call 1-855-411-LWNY (5969) for more information.