While many people joke about housework being bad for their health, vacuuming turned out to be just so for Angie Compas. The 45-year old Southlake resident was cleaning out closets in May when an otherwise normal bending motion created a small popping sound and a sharp pain spread down her left leg.
“I was in horrible pain and wasn’t able to walk,” Compas said, who’s an interior designer.
At first, she thought it was a minor sciatic nerve issue, but it turned out to be a ruptured lumbar disc. She made an appointment to see Jeff Phelps, MD, medical director of the spine program at Medical City North Hills.
In such pain by then, Compas was glad to be able to get in immediately for an MRI and consultation. Results available the next day confirmed a full rupture of the L5 disc. Dr. Phelps said ruptures of the L4 or L5 account for 25-40 percent of all vertebral ruptures.
Dr. Phelps first prescribed non-surgical options to help Compas, but after steroid injections yielded inadequate results, surgery became the best option. The pain had become so debilitating that Compas said she often resorted to using a wheelchair. During a pre-operative visit, Compas noted to the staff that she had lost even more feeling in her leg. Concerned about any possible permanent nerve damage near the ruptured disc area, Dr. Phelps got Compas in for surgery the next day.
“When it doesn’t get better at eight weeks or if neurological functions such as bowel or bladder changes, it’s time to act quickly,” Dr. Phelps said. “It’s good to have a team, that if the problem escalates, we can jump on it fast.”
Dr. Phelps, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon focusing on minimally invasive spine surgery, disc replacement and scoliosis surgery, also relied on the specialized nursing, rehab and tech support at Medical City North Hills to give patients like Compas a successful outcome.
“When I woke up, I thought, do I dare move?” Compas said. “I sat up and the pain was still gone. I’ve been pain free ever since.”
Compas has followed up with physical therapy to regain strength and mobility. In the process, she has also learned that degenerative discs can be hereditary.
“My mom and brother both have back problems and my brother had the same L5 rupture,” she noted. “I’m a go, go, go person and don’t let things stop me. I’m thankful to have my health back and I’m pain free.”