A lifelong athlete, Stacey T., 44, of Hackettstown, has grown to understand that some physical discomfort – and even pain – comes with pushing yourself. Increasingly, chronic back pain became her biggest hurdle, for sports and for everyday activities.
But just a few months ago, she awoke to a great surprise.
“Every morning for the last nine years, I’d get out of the bed and spend the rest of the day managing my pain,” she says. “Then one morning, it just wasn’t there. And it hasn’t come back. Since then, it’s been a whole different life for me.”
The turning point was an innovative spine surgery at Atlantic Health System’s Hackettstown Medical Center. There, neurosurgeon Carl Spivak, MD, had perfected a new outpatient procedure to repair spine damage without traditional surgery.
Home the Same Day
Traditionally, spine surgery requires a large incision so that the physician can clearly see the area of repair. But Dr. Spivak uses an endoscope (a small, long, flexible tube) to thread a “microcamera” and tiny tools through to the area of damage. Surgery time is shorter and recovery is faster, and patients go home the same day. “Our technique allows us to use the natural opening in the bones of the spine to reach the damage,” Dr. Spivak says. “This is a major advance in spine surgery.”
New for the Spine
Though endoscopic surgery is common in knee repair, for example, few spine surgeons today offer their patients the advantage of this technique, he says.
“The spine and nerves are very delicate, and so this surgery requires training in both interventional pain and minimally invasive surgery,” Dr. Spivak says. “Not every surgeon has this combination of skills.” Dr. Spivak has completed advanced training in complex spine surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery and interventional pain.
Because of his successes with the procedure, more and more surgeons have approached Dr. Spivak for training. He has already taught over 30 classes on the technique to surgeons from across the U.S.
Back on Track
Stacey continues to be amazed by how good she feels, and she’s returned to all of her many sports, including one of the most physically challenging events for any athlete: half Ironman competitions. These are a grueling 70-mile combination of swimming, biking and running.
“During the one I did before surgery, my back was killing me during the entire bike portion,” she says. “But I just completed another one recently, after surgery, and I had no pain. It was such a major change!”
“I used to have pain every single day and now, I rarely even take an over-the-counter pain medicine!” she says. “I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Spivak and everyone involved in my care at Hackettstown.”