Spine Athlete ::: Susan's story

Herniated disc

Diagnosis: Herniated disc in the cervical spine

Treatment: C5-C6 fusion, July 23, 2007

Initial injury: I'd been partner-dancing salsa, ballroom and west coast swing three to five nights a week for several years prior to the injury. Degenerative disc disease also runs in my family. I'm a pretty energetic dancer and very passionate about this hobby. So I'm pretty sure that dancing contributed to my injury.

Turning point: I had experienced some minor neck pain for about a year, but the herniation was a memorable event. In early June 2007, after a pretty intense dance lesson, I developed some neck pain that was worse than usual. Five days later, I woke up with burning pain in my neck and back, with shooting "electrical" type nerve pain going down my right arm. My primary care physician prescribed pain medications and scheduled an MRI, which showed a pretty dramatic C5-C6 herniation, with impingement on the nerve root going out the right side. I was then referred to the Mayfield Clinic. For all of June 2007, and up to July 23, when I had the surgery, I was on a constant nerve-blocker. I was still trying to work. My neurosurgeon laid out all of the options and was very patient with all of my many questions. I opted for surgery because I didn't want to be "dancing" on eggshells every time I stepped onto the dance floor. I said, "Hey, just cut me open and fix this! I have to get back on the dance floor!”

Being a spine athlete: I've felt 110 percent since the 2007 surgery, and I resumed my rigorous dancing schedule within five months of the surgery. I feel I can dance better now than before I was hurt. I learned a lot in physical therapy about how to care for the spine and how to keep myself strong through core exercises and upper body strength. I stay active and also do Pilates to keep my core/spine strong and healthy. In ballroom dancing, posture is critical, and that really helps as well. I'm always conscious of my posture. I continue to dance competitively in west coast swing and hustle and also perform on a salsa rueda team, but I don't engage in other sports that might cause an injury. I have no desire to engage in sports like water or snow skiing, for example. I don't want my arms jerked around, even though the synthetic titanium at my C5-C6 vertebrae keeps my spine super stable. If I ever suffer another injury that keeps me temporarily off of the dance floor, well, that injury will be on the dance floor!


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Spine Athlete Story Disclaimer -"Susan's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.



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"I feel 110 percent. I feel I can dance better now than before I was hurt."

Special thanks to
Steppin' Out Dance Studio