Mike, 30, started having back pain at age 19 but has never really figured out why he had back pain. He had an ankle injury that never healed properly and that along with playing golf every day wore out his lower back. Mike didn’t know he needed to stretch and weight train to help protect his back from the repetitive movements of golf. Around 22 he began to suffer severe pain down his legs and it got to the point that he needed a walker. When he finally met with surgeons he was frustrated, because he wanted a surgical solution right away. He had an artificial disc implanted from L4 to L5 and L5 to S1 fused.
My name is Mike. I'm 29-years old. I'll be 30 in a couple months. I work for a commercial real estate debt fund, which isn't as fancy as it sounds. From a lifestyle standpoint, I lead a pretty active lifestyle. I go to the gym probably three to five times a week, I go to yoga and meditate and I try to play golf at least twice of week. So, I feel healthy, I feel active, not restrictions, pretty much can do whatever I want whenever I want physically speaking and I feel good.
I started having back pain when I was about 19-years old and I've never had a doctor actually explain it to me to a point where it made actual sense, but the best that I can piece together is that I broke my left ankle twice and it never healed properly. And, to this day, it still hasn't quite healed properly. I literally played golf every single day growing up, so, the best guess I ever received was that it was a chain reaction starting with the ankle going all the way up to the lower back and then playing golf for years and years and years and not doing everything you need to do to take care of your body from a stretching standpoint because, obviously, when you're young, you don't think you need to stretch, you don't think you need to do yoga, you don't think you need to weight train. So, I had issues with my L4 to L5 discs and my L5 to S1.
When I was 19, I started physical therapy and would get in-intermediate relief and then continued setbacks by going out and probably doing things that I wasn't equipped to do, whether it be continuing to play golf, or I started lifting weights around then and there was a car accident at one point in time which kind of set my back off in-into motion. And, things just kind of progressed and deteriorated from there up to the point where I was about 22, where I really started to suffer from a pain standpoint. I had shooting nerve pain down both legs. My motor functions were being severely inhibited. So, I got to the point where I couldn't really walk towards the end. I had a walker and was pretty immobile, and the pain down the legs, was unbearable at that point and time. And, I couldn't work, I couldn't finish school because I was stuck at home with my mom because I couldn't drive myself.
I was sleeping downstairs before the surgery. I couldn't even go upstairs in the house. My life pretty much consisted of-of really doing nothing and gettin' dragged to physical therapy two or three times a week by my mom. It was so bad to the point where I-I couldn't stretch. I would just go watch t.v. and eat and then go to physical therapy, which at that point in time we were going in a warm pool. It was so embarrassing. [LAUGH] They would have to have to lift me up and like swing me over and drop me into this pool where I would-it was really the only time I could actually move. So, that was at the very end, like I I'd pretty much lost all function towards the very end.
When you're going through a trauma such as this, you find out who your true friends are outside of your family. Like my friends who would actually take the time to come over and visit me because I couldn't go anywhere. I was stuck at home all the time. Just to get dressed and-and to go out to dinner was a nightmare in and of itself. And, I found a lot of solace in watching "Scrubs" [LAUGH] from start to finish. It was me, my mom and the dog and, you know, my-my sister was gone, she was in New York, my brother was off at school and it was just pretty much the three of us and a couple friends who would stop by on a routine basis. So, it was depressing, yeah.
My ah-ha moment was probably being lifted into the pool for physical therapy on like a Tuesday. Tuesday morning at like 10 a.m. You know, I was 22, 23-years old and living at home because I physically couldn't take care of myself and getting driven to physical therapy and being lifted into a pool. And, that's when I kinda knew that everything we had tried that was non-surgical up to that point probably wasn't gonna work.
So, the first meeting with the surgeons, I went in a little pissed off because I was tired, I was done. My life was passing me by, if you will, you know. I was constantly comparing myself to my peers, who were out, active, working, living on their own, accomplishing things. So, I was ready for them to say we're gonna operate on you, we'll fix you, you'll be fine, and that's not what I heard. So, I was very disappointed at that. Luckily, my mom kinda talked some sense to me and then we-we went through that whole process of four or five months of them checking all the non-surgical boxes to make sure that every option had been exhausted because, as you know, surgery is last stop last resort.
It was a difficult process for me. I don't think I had the emotional skills to kinda deal with the situation and also being isolated and away from everyone and more or less depressed. I was fed up. I had had enough and I just-I didn't want to be in pain and I wanted to be able to walk and go work and finish school and do everything that my friends were doing.