For many years, low back pain was just a way of life for Christopher McDowell. An active 44-year-old who cycles and skydives, McDowell had found himself in constant pain and suffering from mobility issues in 2013. But — as many with chronic pain can relate to — he was cautious about the ways surgery might limit his activities, so he tried to manage his pain through other avenues like pain injections and chiropractic care.
McDowell focused on improving his back with strength training and working out, but his pain only worsened. Meanwhile, it wasn't only his activities that were suffering. His quality of life and his relationships were too, particularly the one with his nine-year-old daughter, whom McDowell calls his "best friend." No longer was he at a point where he was able to hide from her how bad his pain was. One afternoon, McDowell felt deep angst trying to pull her sled on what should have been a lighthearted snow-day.
"You're not fun anymore," he remembers her telling him. Later, when a Friday evening daddy-daughter dance was cancelled due to snow and McDowell felt a guilty relief, he finally realized just how much pain he was living with. First thing that Monday, McDowell called Dr. Richard Guyer, co-medical director at the Center for Disc Replacement at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery.
"I was immediately at ease," remembers McDowell. Dr. Guyer told him that of the three options he had for treatment — pain injections, disc replacement, or a discectomy — the disc replacement was the best choice. For McDowell, the small improvement he might see from the discectomy wasn't appealing; instead, he wanted a fuller fix for the pain that was creeping into all areas of his life.
"It was taking away from time with my family," McDowell says of his pan. "That's what broke my heart."
Within two weeks, McDowell went into surgery for a Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR). ADR is an innovative procedure that provides pain relief while preserving motion, meaning McDowell would be able to get back to living his activity-heavy lifestyle.
"The surgery was exactly as described," he remembers. "There were no surprises, and I experienced wonderful customer service the entire time."
"The greatest pleasure I have is seeing a patient get their life back, as Chris did with the ADR," says Dr. Guyer. "I also know that we have given him the best motion-preserving operation, which markedly lessens the chance of future surgery in contrast to fusion surgery."
After a mild recovery period — McDowell was in a back brace for about a week and back at work within four days — he slowly began his new, pain-free life. These days, McDowell is able to mountain bike, ride horses, and golf without pain or worry. But more importantly, he's back to spending quality with his family. In fact, just recently he coached his daughter's softball team to a first-place win. It's probably safe to say she would call him "fun" now.