Relieving Back Pain Without Spinal Fusion

FRESNO, Calif.

80-percent of all Americans will feel the pain. It contributes to $128 billion of medical costs a year and it's responsible for 100-million lost days of work. Margaret Wee was one of those hit hard by years of abusing her young body and back.

"I have had pain and numbness in my left leg for the past four years to the point where I could not feel my left foot," Margaret Wee told Ivanhoe.

A car accident in high school followed by the rigors of collegiate soccer, a couple of bad snowboarding accidents, and degenerating disc disease has left this 28-year-old with two herniated discs in her lumbar spine.

"It definitely sidelined me," Margaret said. " Psychologically, I was like, 'oh my god, what's going to become of Me.' I couldn't even walk down to the end of the block."

One option is spinal fusion, but that comes with severe implications.

"The results are never great. It takes something that's terrible and makes it bearable," Kenneth Light, M.D., a spine surgeon, explained.

Instead of a spinal fusion that would make part of Margaret's spine immobile and could contribute to arthritis later on, spine surgeon doctor Kenneth light instead opted for a new pro-disc implant.

"It doesn't make the spine abnormally stiff, so the patient has much more movement, much more mobility," Dr. Light explained.

Doctors use a microscope to remove the fragments of disc that are pinching the spinal nerve and spinal cord.

"He pulls the spine apart, cuts a little joint and slips this little joint into the spine," Dr. light said. "The spine springs together and captures the joint."

Compare the numbers: for spinal fusion surgery, patients will stay in the hospital for five days.For a lumbar disc replacement, the stay is only two days. If you use the implant for a cervical disc replacement, it's one day.

Recovery with the implants is cut from 12 weeks to 10 days.

"It's the first time we've been able to do an operation with such great results in such a short period of time," Dr. Light said.

Six months after surgery, Margaret has some numbness in her foot, a little pain, but nothing like before.

Nothing's holding her back. She's ready to ride even after the sun goes down.

"In the end, I'm glad this happened when it did, because I'm recovered," Margaret said.

It's too early to know how long the new implant will last, but they are lab tested to last 100 years.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contactingMarsha Hitchcock at

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