for Back Injury
Michelle Diamond takes the path to being pain-free with the help of Orange Coast specialists.
Michelle Diamond with her husband, Larry, on their daily walk.
Michelle Diamond and her husband, Larry, spend a great portion of their free time taking long walks with their dog, Scout. However, after a turbulent flight caused Michelle to bounce sharply while strapped into her seat, her mild back pain that had lingered for years became increasingly worse and forced her to take a break from her daily activities.
“It got to a point where I couldn’t feel my toes and the pain in my right leg was unbearable,” says Michelle.
Michelle spent most of her time laying down in an attempt to alleviate her pain. After over a week of resting with no signs of improvement, Michelle visited MemorialCare Medical Group’s Urgent Care in Huntington Beach. There, an X-ray was taken, and she was referred to physical therapy.
“The physical therapist couldn’t touch my back – it hurt too much,” Michelle recalls. “They referred me to a sports medicine specialist for a cortisone shot, but that offered no relief either.”
Michelle was then referred to the Spine Health Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, where she was evaluated by a physiatrist – a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
“Physiatrists diagnose and treat patients with a range of conditions from musculoskeletal and joint disorders to spinal cord injuries,” explains Jason Koh, D.O., board-certified physiatrist at the Spine Health Center.
Michelle was paired with Theresa Stern, M.P.T., patient navigator and director of the Spine Health Center, to help facilitate her care plan. Michelle’s care team ordered a magnetic resonance image (MRI) of her spine and directed her to a pain management specialist for a targeted epidural. When the epidural injections proved ineffective, Theresa and the rest of Michelle’s care team at the Spine Health Center collaborated to schedule an urgent appointment with a spine surgeon.
Michelle met with Stephen Huo, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon at the Spine Health Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, where he reviewed her MRI after they discussed her symptoms and history.
“Most back issues get better on their own or with conservative treatment. We exhaust all nonoperative treatment options before deciding that surgery is the right choice of treatment for patients.”
– Dr. Stephen Huo
Dr. Huo determined that Michelle had a lumbar disc herniation, which compressed the spinal nerves and caused sciatica pain that radiated to her leg and toes. As Michelle had failed nonoperative treatments, Dr. Huo recommended surgical treatment and later performed a lumbar discectomy where, through a one-inch incision in the midline of her lower back, he removed part of the damaged disc that was pinching a nerve and causing the pain. The minimally invasive procedure can offer several benefits over open surgery, including faster recovery time, lower risk of infection, and less pain.
The day after her surgery, Michelle was back at home and even able to walk short distances. After three months of physical therapy at Orange Coast’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, she’s now pain-free and walking her adoring puppy, Scout, daily.
90 percent of the patients who walk through Dr. Huo’s doors ultimately do not receive spine surgery, as other methods of treatment prove to be effective.
Spine Care at Orange Coast Medical Center
The Spine Health Center team at Orange Coast Medical Center includes a variety of specialists who treat back and neck pain for patients of all ages. From physical therapy, pain management, neurology and acupuncture to neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery, the multidisciplinary team at the Spine Health Center is dedicated to finding the most appropriate treatment for each patient’s condition.
Dancing Away From Dizziness
Melynda Sue Crabtree has been dancing with her flash mob group since she retired five years ago. Always up for a challenge, the 75-year-old enjoys taking part in intricate group dances all across Orange County.
But in November of 2019, Melynda Sue experienced a sense of dizziness while attempting a turn in a routine. When the sensation occurred more than a few times, Melynda Sue expressed her concerns to Lalita Komanapalli, M.D., primary care physician with MemorialCare Medical Group. Dr. Komanapalli referred her to the balance and vestibular disorders program at Orange Coast Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.
Melynda Sue consulted with Orange Coast physical therapist, Mitchell Tsurudome, P.T., who specializes in vestibular rehabilitation, a therapeutic program used to improve balance and reduce problems with dizziness and spinning sensations (vertigo). After a series of examinations and an interview about her symptoms, Mitchell found that when Melynda Sue would turn her head, her eyes were unable to properly adjust to the movement of the turn, causing her to feel unsteady. He put together a physical therapy plan that would help the issue, which included specific exercises to address the vestibular system and her balance.
One of the differentiators of Orange Coast’s program is one-on-one, personalized care. When Mitchell learned that Melynda Sue was a dancer, he incorporated dance moves from her routine into her physical therapy sessions to ensure that she could safely perform them before returning to her dance group. Now, as a result of her treatment, Melynda Sue is back to dancing with confidence.