By Linda Cruse, Kansas City Star
Constant back pain began plaguing Shawnee realtor Cindy Nabors in her late 40s.
She is one of millions of Americans experiencing joint problems. Thanks to orthopedic solutions, Nabors has overcome the pain associated with their orthopedic issues.
Nabors’ back pain was diagnosed as spinal stenosis, a condition where the spaces in her spine have narrowed, causing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
About 8 to 11 percent of the United States’ population has spinal stenosis and an estimated 2.4 million people have spinal stenosis by 2021, according to Dr. Glenn Amundson, orthopedic surgeon with the Kansas City Spine & Sports Medicine Center in Overland Park and Menorah Medical Center.
Nabors spent three years seeking relief. “I went to a series of doctors and eventually saw a pain management doctor who gave me a series of injections, but nothing worked,” she said.
Last year Nabor’s pain management specialist recommended that she see Amundson.
“After X-rays and tests he said he had exactly what I needed,” Nabors said. “I had been getting extremely discouraged about the pain, so I was thrilled. I had gone through three surgeries to fuse the bones in my neck. My experience with fusion is that it just leads to more surgeries. I really didn’t want to do that again, but I was beginning to think it was my only option.”
Instead of fusion, Amundson recommended using a device called Co-Flex, a titanium metal implant designed to keep the spine stable after surgical decompression while maintaining height and motion. It is designed to support the spine without fusing bones together.
Advantages of Co-Flex surgery over fusion are less blood loss during surgery, a significantly reduced post-operative stay and the device’s ability to align the spine and maintain motion, Amundson said.
“We introduced Co-Flex to Kansas City last August,” he said. “People with significant back pain are undergoing the procedure and going home the next day.”
Nabors said her neck fusion surgeries each required a two- to three-night stay. “With the Co-Flex surgery I was almost like an outpatient,” she said. “I underwent the procedure and went home about 1 p.m. the next day.”
Nabors said the pain has lessened over the last three months and now is significantly reduced. “I held an open house on Sunday and showed homes to two clients afterwards,” she said. “I couldn’t have done that prior to the surgery. I even went out on the golf course and was able to swing a golf club. It’s been wonderful.”
Amundson said patients with spinal stenosis should undergo conservative treatment before considering surgery; however, Co-Flex surgery can be the solution for some patients with significant pain.
“I first recommend patients rest, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and participate in physical therapy,” he said. “If the pain persists, muscle relaxants and pain management using injection therapy are options.” If that doesn’t help, surgery is recommended.
“People don’t need to be afraid to consider surgical options,” he said. “Some of them, such as the Co-Flex, have been found to be quite effective and less invasive then back surgeries of the past.”