Back surgery gives new life to Tenino grandmother

June 14, 2021 Providence News Team

Melissa Hansen, 51, spends most of her day playing with and caring for her energetic young grandson, Eli.

Two years ago, she couldn’t get out of bed without assistance due to excruciating back pain. Each morning her husband would carefully help her get out of bed and down the stairs. She was in such debilitating pain she needed assistance for everyday activities. Her son and daughter-in-law, along with their 4-month-old baby, had to move in to help care for her.

“Before I had my surgery, it was the worst year and a half of my life,” said Melissa.

She tried to relieve her chronic pain with non-surgical options such as chiropractic treatment and physical therapy, but nothing helped. Her physical therapist suggested she get an MRI after she had no improvement with treatment.

Melissa’s primary care physician referred her to Providence Southwest Washington Neurosurgery, where Brian Iuliano, M.D., neurosurgeon, told her that she had a lumbar disc herniation at the L5-S1 level. She would would need a lumbar microdiscectomy procedure to help her live a normal life. “He said he didn’t even know how I was walking, and that he couldn’t imagine the pain I was in,” Melissa recalled.

Relief through surgery treatment

Melissa’s disc herniation led to nerve root compression, which caused most of her symptoms. Disc herniations occur as a result of degeneration or damage in a disc, according to Dr. Iuliano. “Sometimes, there is an acute injury or event; sometimes the onset is more gradual due to wear and tear changes over time,” he said.

“I was scared of having surgery. But when I met with Dr. Iuliano, I knew I was going to be in good hands and that this was going to help me,” Melissa said. “I trusted him and felt confident he could help me.”

According to Dr. Iuliano, the goal of surgery was to get pressure off of the nerve by removing the ruptured piece of disc. Once that’s done, the nerve inflammation improves and the nerve recovers, which leads to improvement in the symptoms.

Melissa noticed an immediate improvement in her pain after surgery, and each day she made progress with more mobility. She looked forward to little milestones, such as no longer requiring a walker for assistance. She took the time she needed to heal properly and soon was able to have a more active role in her grandson’s life.

“I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, but I’m glad it happened to me when my grandson was just an infant because there would be no way for me to care for him now as a toddler,” Melissa said.

Melissa is now fully recovered and loving her new pain-free life as an active grandma. She loves to incorporate exercise with her grandson by doing floor stretches and exercises together. “I’m loving life now,” Melissa exclaimed. “And I lost 25 pounds because I can actually move, which is another great result of my surgery.”

“I would recommend Dr. Iuliano to anybody and everybody,” Melissa said. “He was a lifesaver. He gave me my life back.”

For more information about Providence Southwest Washington Neurosurgery, contact (360) 486-6150.

Tips to help prevent low back pain

  • Maintain overall health and fitness.
  • Maintain an appropriate weight or lose weight, if needed.
  • Stretch and exercise regularly, including core strengthening.
  • Avoid smoking or quit smoking.
  • Take care when doing heavy lifting or heavy activities and use proper lifting techniques.
  • Take brief periods of rest or activity modification when pain occurs.
  • Use heat/ice therapy for episodes of back pain.
  • Use anti-inflammatory medications for episodes of back pain
  • Do gentle leg stretches help relieve back tightness and pain

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