Julie Yater loves to keep moving. She and her family scuba dive; she runs and plays tennis. It’s safe to say the 49-year-old teacher, cheerleading coach and mother of two leads an active, busy life. But there was a time when her fast-paced lifestyle came to a crawl.
Back pain threatened Julie’s quality of life — and her way of life. She started seeing a physical therapist, tried dry needling for intramuscular stimulation and later went to a pain management doctor for steroid injections. Despite her best efforts, she only got temporary relief from the severe pain.
“It affected everything I did, from sleeping at night to changing positions,” Julie recalls. “I would wake up probably over 20 times a night. Getting out of bed, my husband would have to help me. Getting ready for work, he would have to help me put on my shoes.”
Julie turned to sports medicine specialist and orthopedic spine surgeon Carson Fairbanks, M.D., at Texas Health Orthopedic Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. Dr. Fairbanks did a thorough evaluation and took X-rays of Julie’s spine. The images revealed that the unrelenting pain Julie was experiencing was the result of instability in her back. Several vertebrae in her spine were moving abnormally, causing her issues.
After getting limited relief with prior conservative therapies, Julie knew she needed to try something more permanent, but Dr. Fairbanks’ recommendation came as a bit of a shock. Julie needed spinal fusion surgery to get her moving again.
“I cried to him, thinking I was too young to have surgery,” Julie admits. “He assured me that to have some sort of relief the only thing that could happen was to have back surgery.”
During the procedure, Dr. Fairbanks fused the impacted vertebrae together and was able to take all of the pressure off the nerves to help relieve the pain Julie also was having in her legs. With surgery, followed by four months of rest and rehabilitation, Julie finally had her life back.
“My life is great now and I owe it all to Dr. Fairbanks and his staff,” she says. “Dr. Fairbanks was very thorough in his explanation as to what type of surgery I was going to have, in the amount of time he took with me answering EVERY question that I had and in consoling me as I cried to him — just wanting to be pain-free.”
Julie is back to doing the things she loves in her daily life without pain. She is able to stand and teach her kindergarten class and coach her school’s cheerleaders on the sideline. She is back to running and playing tennis and being active with the people she loves.
“I think of all of my patients just like my family,” Dr. Fairbanks says. “I really treat people the exact same way that I would want someone to treat my mom, or my sister, or my grandmother or my dad. Every single decision I make is with that in mind. How would I want my family to be treated?”
If you’re an active adult and back pain is affecting your quality of life, it may be time to see a specialist. For more information about Texas Health Sports Medicine or to find a sports medicine physician, visit TexasHealth.org/SportsMedicine.