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Freedom From Chronic Back Pain

October 11, 2013

Even though Mindy Alioto experienced devastating, chronic back pain, she was scared to death of back surgery. When nothing else worked, she sought help at the Duke Spine Center. "I think I would have been in a wheelchair without this surgery."

Chronic back pain can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life. Mindy Alioto’s low back and leg pain had progressed to the point that she couldn’t walk upstairs, uphill, or for long periods. “And as a school counselor, I am almost never at my desk, but instead I'm running all over the building every day,” she said. “It was so painful.”

Alioto blamed her debilitating back pain on her age. “I believe everything you’ve done in your life comes back to haunt you, and that’s what happened to me,” she said. She tried physical therapy and medication but nothing seemed to work. Still, the thought of committing to neurosurgery scared her. But after a friend had an excellent outcome with his back surgery, Alioto decided to see his neurosurgeon at Duke Spine Center.

“I have to tell you, I was scared to death of back surgery," she said, but was comfortable with her doctor. “I felt like he would do the right thing by me.”

After determining Alioto’s spine was unstable, she underwent a procedure that fused two lumbar vertebrae. The procedure uses a bone grafting material — either bone from the patient or a donor, or a synthetic material along with small screws to stabilize the vertebrae. This extra bone is placed in between and alongside the two vertebrae to promote the bones to fuse. When it heals, it essentially becomes one bone.

Alioto’s nurses got her out of bed the day after neurosurgery. “I started walking and I could tell right then and there that everything was going to be just fine,” she said.

Alioto is not coy about her admiration for her doctor. “I absolutely love him. I feel like he gave me my life back. I think I would have been in a wheelchair without this surgery.”

Alioto was back to work on a part-time basis in less than three weeks, and full-time within a month.

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Chronic Back Pain