If you are a person who follows horse racing, then you know the name D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas is a world-famous horse trainer who has trained four Kentucky Derby winners in his 84 years. He is still working, showing up at the Churchill Downs track every single morning to evaluate the condition of the horses, watching for stiffness or soreness – at least that was the case until severe lower back pain changed everything.
The pain came from spinal stenosis, a condition in which there is narrowing in the space at the center of the spine, the area of the spine where nerves branch out to other areas of the body, or the space between the bones of the spin. Whichever of these three types of stenosis an individual has, it is generally caused by wear and tear related to osteoarthritis, and the pain that it causes can be debilitating. In Lukas’ case, the pressure on his nerves caused him so much discomfort that it threatened his way of life. “I’d gotten to the point where I had little power in my leg, couldn’t stand for any length of time and couldn’t walk very far without getting fatigued and feeling pain,” he said.
At first he tried to ignore the pain, then eventually moved forward to treat it with injections. Finally the pain got to be so bad that he could barely stand up or walk to the grandstand to watch a horse run. Concerned that he would not be able to move around the way that he wanted to or continue working, he asked his physician about minimally invasive surgery. “I just got to the point where I said, ‘Look, fix it.’” But he was also concerned that in doing so he would be taking himself away from the sport he loved for an extended period of time. Five weeks after the surgery, however, he was literally back up on the horse.
The surgery that was deemed most appropriate for Mr Lukas’ condition was a posterior lumbar decompression and fusion. It repaired his lumbar spinal stenosis and stopped the nerves in his lower spine from being compressed. The minimally invasive surgery was conducted using robotics and 3D imaging.
Though the COVID-19 crisis has put much of the horse racing activity that he wanted to return to on hold, Lucas speaks in glowing terms of the surgery and his happiness with his physician. Lukas said, “Within the first hour or two after surgery I felt immediate relief.” Hours after surgery he was up on his feet, and now he is back to work. “I thought … this guy is a miracle worker.”
Every day there are people who are discovering that they do not have to continue living with back pain. If discomfort is keeping you from doing the things you love, we can help. Contact our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey today to set up an appointment to find out how.