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Bethlehem resident Shelley Arida remembers exactly when her back pain began. She was stretching and felt some pain in her lower back. At first she thought she just pulled a muscle, but as her pain worsened she realized it was much more.
“The pain was crippling, to the point were I was unable to walk, I was unable to workout, paint, and I was unable to carry out normal functions,” says Arida.
Although Arida didn’t have a history of back pain she was surprised to learn that she was actually suffering from several degenerative conditions. Her imaging studies showed that she had spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerves go through and spondylolisthesis, or the forward slippage of one vertebrae over the other. Dr. Stoll told Arida that she would ultimately need surgery.
Arida claims she didn’t even entertain the idea of surgery at first. But, after trying several conservative methods, including physical therapy, she realized that she might not have a choice. “I just wanted to heal naturally, but it just got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore,” she says.
Spine Surgeon Christopher Wagener, M.D. explained that she would need a level two spinal fusion, one of his more common surgeries. “What Shelley needed was for someone like me to take pressure off of her nerves and then because she had a degenerative condition where her bones didn’t line up, we needed to fuse her back to prevent the condition from worsening at a later point in time,” says Dr. Wagener.
Dr. Wagener says that because Arida had spondylolisthesis after taking the pressure off of the nerves she didn’t have the bone or the structural support so her bones would remain in the same place, therefore it was necessary to put some instrumentation in to hold everything together. Then he made the environment rich so that the bones would grow together and the bone slippage didn’t get worse.
Though the recovery time for a spinal fusion can vary and depends greatly on the individual, it is typically anywhere from two to three months. However, Arida noticed an immediate difference. “As soon as I got home I was going up and down the stairs and felt relief,” says Arida.
Within just a few months, Arida had resumed all of her normal activities and is now looking forward to getting back on her bicycle this spring. She is grateful to Dr. Wagener and has only one regret. “I really wish I would have had the surgery sooner. I tell everyone who has back problems to at least have a consultation with Dr. Wagener because he can help you,” says Arida.