The Keys to Beating Back Pain in Your 80s, According to a Patient Who’s Been There
Eighty-two-year-old Jaqueline Camuso shares how she conquered a year-long battle with spinal stenosis.
“I just can’t believe how great I feel.” That’s the first thing Jaqueline Camuso, 82, says when you ask about her health. You would never know she had been grappling with intense back pain on and off for nearly 12 months.
It all started when she was scrubbing her bathroom floor. She quickly turned her body and recalls pain instantly shooting through her back and not being able to stand up straight. This episode set her medical journey in motion. After seeing three physicians, undergoing multiple treatments for spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spaces between vertebrae that compresses nerves in the back – and finally getting relief, she’s now sharing her experience to educate others about key lessons for beating back pain in your 80s, or at any age.
Understand spine care is a process.
“After my injury, my primary care doctor told me I needed to see a pain management doctor. That physician gave me three epidurals, one each month, but I didn’t feel any pain relief until the third injection,” explains Jaqueline. “I was finally relieved, but seven months later, the pain returned. I got another epidural, but the pain persisted. That’s when they told me it was time to start exploring surgery.”
“Jaqueline’s experience highlights the fact that there are pain management and therapeutic treatments patients may want to consider before surgery,” says Kyle Chapple, M.D., Jaqueline’s neurosurgeon. Dr. Chapple is a board-certified neurosurgeon at ANS | Altair Health.
“These methods can work well for some patients or for a period of time,” he adds. “Despite how advanced spine care has become, every patient is unique and it may not be clear what types of non-surgical care will actually be effective until they try a particular treatment. While surgical options are very precise, the bottom line is relieving back pain isn’t always a quick fix.”
Evaluate all of your treatment options.
Just as she learned about pain management treatments before receiving a series of epidurals, Jaqueline discussed all possible surgical options with Dr. Chapple so they could make a decision together on the best course of care.
“This upfront discussion was critical in figuring out my path forward,” says Jaqueline. “Dr. Chapple thoroughly explained what was going on with my L4 and L5 vertebrae and how a laminectomy would relieve the compression of my spinal cord. We talked about a few different approaches for stabilizing my spine, but after he educated me about the coflex® device – which helps shorten recovery time, preserves your natural range of motion and forgoes the need to fuse any vertebrae together – the decision was a no-brainer.”
Ask questions … and more questions.
“I was never shy about asking questions, or asking questions more than once,” explains Jaqueline. “Dr. Chapple was incredibly patient. He made sure I understood every single thing we discussed and never made me feel like he was on the clock.”
Between the trust Dr. Chapple earned early on and having a solid understanding of the options on the table, Jaqueline was confident in her decision to proceed with two laminectomies and the insertion of two coflex® devices into her lower spine.
Talk with others who have been in your shoes.
There’s nothing like learning from others’ experiences. “That’s why I’m sharing my story and talking to everyone I can about what a success my surgery was,” Jaqueline says.
After her surgery, Jaqueline was pain free but cautious to not lift, twist or bend. After just two months of outpatient physical therapy, she mastered her workouts, was walking over a mile at a time and cleared to travel to see her friends in Florida.
“One of my friends is in a similar situation as I was, and we just learned she is also a candidate for the surgery. It’s an amazing feeling to help others advocate for their health,” she adds.