Spinal Stenosis Surgery Helps CrossFit Enthusiast Go the Distance 

Procedure targets narrowed spinal canal

Spinal stenosis patient Terri Farley

Terri Farley, who works out several days a week, suffered from spinal stenosis for years.

A competitive CrossFit athlete, Terri Farley is in peak physical condition. So she knew something wasn’t right a few years ago when she could not lift a gallon of milk off of her counter to put it away in the fridge.

“I didn’t really have bad pain in my neck or anything horrible,” recalls Terri, who lifts weights and runs about five days a week. “But I couldn’t raise my arm over my head.”

Having worked as a practice administrator with Inova orthopedic surgeon Corey Wallach, MD, she scheduled an appointment. Dr. Wallach determined she had a major spinal stenosis, which required surgery. While Dr. Wallach generally recommends more conservative measures for patients before operating, Terri’s case was unique.

“In my practice, we look at the patient, where their symptoms are coming from and, most importantly, how it affects them,” says Dr. Wallach. “If the symptoms are mild, we’ll treat the patient differently than if they are disabling. We start more conservatively with basic medications and physical therapy. The vast majority of patients will get better with those treatments. But the good news is for patients [like Terri] who need surgery, we have incredible outcomes.”

In Terri’s case, she was able to go home the same day as her September 2014 surgery, and within two days she was out and walking in her neck brace. After three months, she got the green light to return to her previous workout routine. This year, Terri Farley placed 150 out of about 6,000 participants in her age group of 50–54-year-olds in a CrossFit competition.

“I feel fantastic and happy with consistent strength gains that are equal on both arms!” she says.  “I am thankful [Dr. Wallach] was able to fix me, and I am stronger than ever!”

Seeing Terri get back to doing what she loves was rewarding for Dr. Wallach. But, for him, it also reinforced his philosophy of providing individual attention to patients and educating them about their neck and back pain, in addition to treating it.

“I think there are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to neck and back pain, and the word doctor comes from the Latin ‘docere’ which means to teach,” says Dr. Wallach. “Our role is to teach patients and try to get them better in the way that makes the most sense for them.”

Spinal stenosisWhat Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and pinches the nerves, resulting in back and leg pain. Spinal stenosis often occurs in older adults, although younger people who are born with a small spinal canal may also develop symptoms. Treatments include the following:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Laminaplasty
  • Laminectomy
  • Spinal fusion
  • Interspinous/interlaminar implant
  • Epidural steroid blocks
  • Selective nerve root blocks/transforaminal epidural steroid blocks

Ask The Expert

Corey Wallach, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon

Free Lecture: Advanced Treatment for Neck Pain
Date and Time: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6 p.m.
Location: Inova Alexandria Hospital Boardroom
4320 Seminary Road
Alexandria, VA

Experiencing Back Pain or Limited Motion?

Learn more about the Inova Spine Program.

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