Trey Rutherford is 31 years old. He is a husband and father and, as a marathon runner, tri-athlete, avid golfer and soccer player, was in excellent shape. One morning after a run, this seemingly healthy and active athlete experienced the most excruciating pain he had ever felt in his lower back. It literally took his breath away.
“I knew this was not just a minor muscle strain from my running,” Trey said. “I immediately began thinking about getting some medical help…as soon as possible!”
Despite his young age and superb condition, Trey had ruptured one of his spinal discs – specifically the L5S1.
A Herniated Disc: A Common and Very Painful Condition
Between each vertebral bone, a “disc” acts as a kind of shock absorber and hinge. With age, that disc can become dehydrated, making it more prone to injury.
According to the back specialists at Texas Back Institute, the disc is composed of the “annulus,” which is a tough tissue that makes up the outside of the disc, and the nucleus, which is the jelly-like substance contained in the center of the disc. A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus breaks through the outer tissue.
Medical studies suggest that a herniated disc is very common and may or may not cause symptoms. Stretching or tearing of the annulus may result in back or neck pain. The discs are immediately in front of the spinal cord and exiting nerves, so when the herniated disc, or protrusion, compresses the spinal cord or nerves, leg or arm pain and numbness or weakness may occur.
A Decision Had to be Made
To say that this injury shocked this active young man is an understatement! To make matters worse, the first procedure, completed by another surgeon – a discectomy – failed. After consulting with Dr. Scott Blumenthal, a spine surgeon and internationally recognized expert on artificial disc replacement at Texas Back Institute, Trey had to make a decision about how to move forward with a treatment plan
“After weighing the options with Dr. Blumenthal, we decided on an artificial disc replacement procedure,” Trey said. “This was a serious decision for me because I’m a runner, tri-athlete, golfer and I want to continue doing this for many years to come.
“My choice was between having the fusion procedure or the total disc replacement. After considering all of the short- and long-term considerations, I felt the fusion procedure, where the two vertebrae on either side of the ruptured disc are fused together, would limit my range of motion and keep me from enjoying the sports I love.”
The Procedure and Recovery
The surgical process can be intimidating however, Trey’s experience was extremely positive and amazingly brief.
“From the time I checked into the hospital for surgery until I was released to go home, it only took about 24 hours,” he said. “My wife was with me before the procedure and then during the post-operative time. Since we have a very active two-year-old, we had family and friends helping us out immediately after the procedure.
“During this process, Dr. Blumenthal and the entire staff of Texas Back Institute have been extremely supportive. They have informed me about every step and coordinated the physical therapy, and, through it all, this lack of ‘surprises’ has helped keep down any post-surgery anxiety I might have had.”
After 10 months of recovery and physical therapy, Trey has big plans for the future.
“I’m ready to get back to running,” he said. “I plan on getting back into shape slowly, but I will definitely stretch out the legs now that I have been given the go-ahead from Dr. Blumenthal. Getting in a few rounds of golf is also on my
“I’ve already booked a few races for the upcoming months. These include the Dallas Half Marathon in December, the Cowtown Full Marathon in February 2019 and the Half Ironman contest in Galveston, which occurs in April of 2019. I am excited to get back to training – setting a goal and accomplishing it.”
“I Was at the Perfect Place”
“I have nothing but good things to say about the treatment I received from Dr. Blumenthal and the entire staff at Texas Back Institute,” Trey said. “They are highly professional and know exactly what they are doing.
“I’m a very optimistic person, and I felt very confident that I was at the perfect place to take care of my back injury. There is a kind of ‘safety net’ at Texas Back Institute that is very comforting to a patient. It’s all about knowing that you are in the best place in the nation, and maybe the world, for back surgery.”