June 22, 2005
S. I. Joint Minnesota Style
I could be your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, your relative, your neighbor, or your coworker. I am asking you to take a moment to explore all the possibilities of what is available for the treatment of chronic low back pain. Have you ever thought a sacrum joint could be defective? I've had back pain since I can remember until the surgical fusion of the sacrum joint by Dr. John Stark.
I grew up on a dairy farm near Maple Lake Minnesota. We didn't have a pipe line, there were no automated feeding systems in place. Why we didn't even have a bale thrower. It was all hand and back work. Along with that, picture me 5'7" in the 5th grade. When I said my back hurt the response was, "so does mine" or, "your growing too fast." So that's what I thought it was. By 19 I was pretty much off the farm but had been in a motor vehicle accident. Now I had another reason for the never ending pain.
Shortly after the accident (which was over 33 years ago), I started to see a Chiropractor. I suspect over the 33 years I've had nearly 2000 treatments. Spinal manipulations along with ice packs applied to the sacrum or low back. I had X-Rays, some bulging disc noted, but my back never got better. The treatments provided temporary relief but the adjustments became more frequent and would last only a few hours. I was told I needed to exercise more and the muscles would improve and the SI joint would get stronger.
I also went to medical Doctors. There I had MRI's. I was tested for Lymes Disease, Arthritis, Lupus, and I had blood work that confirmed I was inflamed. No kidding, I thought. All a person had to do was place their hand on my back to feel the heat from the inflammation through my clothes. If only I lost weight. I needed to loose weight and then my back wouldn't hurt so much.
I was so tired of people telling me: "Wear a back support." ( which I did), or "you must have lifted something wrong."; "You need to sleep more." ( your body heals while you rest); "Exercise more." (build muscles to hold the joint); "Walk more." (provides needed lubrication to the joint); "Take the weight off." (Strains the back). It's hard to believe unless this has happened to you. These people were all professionals and I truly believed they believed in their method of eliminating low back pain. Unlike a knee or hip, no one even hints that it's possible to have a defective sacrum joint. You hear of total knee and total hip replacements, so could it be possible that you need a total sacrum joint? All that pain over the years might not be your fault. You might have a warn sacrum joint or a defective sacrum joint- A joint that's in need of surgical repair.
During this same time frame I also worked as a Registered nurse for 15 years. I knew there was a lot of lifting patients, so of course my back was going to hurt. You lift, roll and reposition people all day long not to mention the heavy med carts, food carts, and linen carts. Standing and bending over people all day doing treatments would give anyone a sore back. I had more reason for back pain "than Carters Liver Pills."
Sometimes I couldn't sit. I couldn't lay on either side so I would prop up both legs in the air and lying flat out on ice packs in order to sleep, sometimes waking more than 8 times a night to reposition myself. Soft cushions were impossible. I use to keep my left hand under my left buttocks while sitting or riding in a car. There were problems hiking . Not only was the seat a killer but my leg made this clicking noise with every revolution. The leg painfully grated and I could not even swat at a mosquito without loosing balance and falling over. Skiing presented another problem. The left side was useless. I jokingly referred to it as my dead side. Both my feet were cold but my left foot was like ice.
The pain was so severe I saw the Chiropractor every day I went to work. That was just so I could work. Driving became more difficult since I have a straight stick. Have you ever been in a position where you basically need to talk yourself into moving a body part, to the point you actually manually use you hand to lift your leg? It's no longer a reflex. I quit my job as a nurse. I just couldn't work like that anymore. I was at the point where I didn't care if the Leg was cut off.
One winter night I just couldn't take it anymore. I sat down at the computer and began my search for someone, anyone who had any knowledge of Sacrum joint problems. Specifically no Chiropractors, no PT, no OT, and no pain clinic (been there, did that). I found a surgeon in the south. He explained how he did sacrum fusions. I had always been skeptical of back surgery due to reported poor outcomes. However at this point the way I saw it was, if it didn't work, I'd be in pain . I had nothing to loose.
After reading everything available I decided to find someone in Minnesota who did sacrum fusions. I started with the internet. No luck, no one was listed . Then I began the arduous task of calling each and every surgical Hospital Starting at Duluth on down the state. From Bemidji to Brainerd, Crosby to Aitkin, and on down to Saint Cloud . It was always the same question. "Do you have any surgeons who perform sacrum joint fusions.?" followed by "I'll transfer you to surgery." Once in the metro area I began going alphabetical. By the time I got to North Memorial I was getting discouraged. I was referred to Neurosurgeons, and more pain clinics by Orthopedics. However a Neurosurgeon from the University Hospital said, "I have heard of one guy-Dr. John Stark, who is doing some fusions."
After 2 days of phoning I had found one surgeon in Minnesota. I was thrilled. I met with Dr Stark and his team. I had the diagnostic injection at a GDI center. Having the injection was painful I admit, but within a couple of minutes I had no pain. I don't care what anyone says, it was a miracle. The test was positive. It reinforced what I knew. There was something wrong with my sacrum joint.
After about one month the pain returned. I returned to Dr. Starks office and scheduled my surgery. I was well informed, I knew the joint was only suppose to have a small crack. After surgery, however, Dr. Stark informed me that "it was a canyon" and that the joint was an immature joint not able to support the weight of a body. That's why it would not hold in place.
So after 52 years, and thousands of Doctor visits and thousands of dollars, I had one small back surgery with one very long titanium screw. I have no pain. I can ride bike and swat mosquitoes without falling over. I can wear a little heel if I want and I can drive a standard transmission pain free. There seems to be no limitations.
Who knows why. Was it the heavy farm work as a child, the car accident, the weight gain , the nursing profession or was it just a small minor birth defect a genetic imperfection not picked up in X-rays or a MRI? The CAT scan now shows new bone growth . So please explore the possibilities. Just maybe it's not your fault. I encourage everyone who has unending low back pain to seek out Dr. John Stark.
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