The simplest of tasks can cause back problems

30 September 2019

Sarah Roche is our lead bariatric specialist nurse and had back surgery here at Gatwick Park Hospital under the care of orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Praveen Inaparthy.

A simple act of twisting as she pulled on a pair of trousers to get ready for a dog walk left Sarah with excruciating back pain.

“I was pulling them on while standing up, lost my balance and felt something go in my back – it was that simple, but I was immediately in pain.”

Sarah believes her 36 years as a nurse, on her feet all day and lifting patients, contributed to a weakness in her back.

“My consultant told me if I hadn’t had such good core muscles, my back would have been causing problems years earlier,” she said. (Sarah had developed strong core muscles from nearly 20 years as a trampoline coach for the Flitecrew Trampoline Club, based at K2 in Crawley, and the Surrey-based Max Force Trampoline Club).

Initially, her GP advised rest and referred her for physiotherapy and to see a consultant. She had a steroid spinal injection under epidural to help relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation but “this worked for four days”.

The pain was worse first thing in the morning after laying down, and it was particularly painful to put her weight through her left leg.

“It felt like I was standing on a hot rod,” she says. 

The pain went on for six months and in that time Sarah ended up having stomach upsets caused by taking over-the-counter ibuprofen.

“I knew the pain was not going to get better with tablets as it was a physical problem and a MRI scan had shown there was an underlying issue with the spine and the sciatic nerve was trapped. I was hobbling into work every day.”

Luckily, Sarah had private health insurance and she was booked to have surgery with Mr Inaparthy in November 2017 which involved decompression of two discs and shaving some of the vertebrae to release the sciatic nerve.

“The first week post-op was uncomfortable and I was given painkillers, but I quickly weaned myself off them and I haven’t taken a painkiller since. The operation has been life changing. I have never looked back – I wouldn’t be walking if I hadn’t had the surgery.

“When I first hurt my back, I thought it was just going to get better by itself. My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to make sure you get it diagnosed. It could be a range of issues and many of them will get better with physiotherapy and rest, but you need to know what you are dealing with. If your back doesn’t improve, go back to your GP. Even if I’d had loads of physiotherapy, my back would never have got better as it was a physical problem with the spine.”

Within four weeks of the operation, Sarah returned to work at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital and she jokes that she is now a “walking advert” for the hospital. While back pain is now in the past, and life and work have returned to normal, Sarah has made one key change: she now always sits down to pull on her trousers or lace up her shoes. 

Advice from Mr Praveen Inaparthy, Consultant Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgeon at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital. If you wish to book a consultation with Mr Inaparthy, please call on 01293 778 906 to find out more.

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