(WOIO) - The number one reason people go to the doctor is for flu-like symptoms. The second reason is for back pain. But now there's a new procedure that's helping some sufferers live pain free.
Judy Rogers is all too familiar with the inside of a doctor's office. As a florist, she had no time for chronic pain in her lower back. It quickly became debilitating.
"I couldn't stand very long. Laying down hurt. Sitting down hurt. I couldn't go up stairs," said Rogers.
Other doctors told her she would have to live with it. Until, finally, a series of specific physical tests showed her sacroiliac joint was not working properly. It's called the SI for short, and connects the bottom of the spine to the pelvis.
"Patients typically present with back pain that is radiating into the buttock, or sometimes just pain over the buttock. That's a common symptom that patients have from everyday back pain. So it's easily missed, this diagnosis," explains orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin McCarthy.
He recommended a minimally-invasive procedure called "iFuse." Three titanium implants are inserted across the joint through an incision only 3 centimeters long. The bone eventually grows around the devices and the triangular shape helps stabilize the joint. Patients are usually out of the hospital the very next day and spend six weeks on crutches.
"Before iFuse, there was really only a couple options. One is medication. The other is certain physical therapies, strengthening exercises, maneuvers. And then as an extreme, a large open fusion with plates and screws, which patients really did poorly from," says McCarthy.
Rogers noticed a difference from the moment she opened her eyes.
"Immediately upon getting my senses back from surgery, I knew I was better. I knew I still had to recover, but it made a major difference right from the get-go," says Rogers.
Two years later, she's still pain free and glad she never gave up on trying to find life-changing relief.
Doctors say problems with the SI joint account for about 25 percent of lower back pain cases.
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