Carla Fields of Athens had been having uncomfortable spasms in her buttocks for more than a
year. When the spasms became painful, she knew it was time to seek medical care. “The spasms
came and went, so I just dealt with it for a while,” Fields recalls. Gradually the spasms became worse and more frequent, causing pain and numbness in her right leg and foot.
Fields enjoys walking outdoors with her husband and 9-year-old twins. She remembers walking one day while her children rode bikes. “I couldn’t even walk one-fourth of a mile. It hurt so badly, I was in tears. I said then, ‘I have to do something.’”
Tests revealed nerve damage to her spine. Her physician was Luke Madigan, MD, an
orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist at Parkwest Medical Center. Dr. Madigan worked with Fields over several months and discussed options including a lumbar fusion surgical procedure. Fields says she is grateful that Dr. Madigan carefully listened to her and reviewed X-ray and MRI results to help her understand them.
“I Tried Everything”
Fields says she tried everything she could before pursuing surgery. “I tried epidural steroid injections and six months of physical therapy before I did surgery, just trying to see if that would help.”
Dr. Madigan explained to Fields that she had spinal stenosis, a condition where the spaces within the spine become narrow and put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spinal canal.
Dr. Madigan compares the spinal canal to a big tube or tunnel, like a subway system. He
discovered Fields had a cyst on her spine that was causing one of her discs to slide forward, pressing on a nerve and causing her right leg pain. When vertebra slip out of place, the condition is called spondylolisthesis.
Fields had surgery in June 2020 and returned to work in August. During the procedure, Dr.
Madigan removed the disc that was out of place and used screws to fuse the two adjacent discs
together, surrounding the fusion with bone marrow.
The healing process over about six months’ time allows the newly inserted bone matter to fuse with the existing bone.
“Think about breaking a bone, and then having it heal over time,” says Dr. Madigan. “I used
the same cells to create one bone structure from two separate ones by fusing them
Dr. Madigan says Fields’ spondylolisthesis would have progressed without
intervention, and the lumbar fusion procedure helped stabilize the vertebrae. Her age
made her a good candidate for surgical success and better quality of life.
Fields spent one night at Parkwest and says her nurses were wonderful. “Everyone who
checked me in and got me ready, they were nice and made me comfortable.” She is
thankful she had the surgery and for Dr. Madigan’s reassuring care.
Getting Better by the Day
“I was sore the first week after surgery. By the end of the second week, I was walking
and feeling okay. As I felt better I thought, ‘I am glad I did this.’” The wife and moth-
er began walking with her children every night up and down the street. “It really felt
good. I think I made the right decision.”
Dr. Madigan explained the pain relief is immediate for patients who experience lower body
pain due to compression of the spinal cord. He follows his patients with regular check-ups for about a year, and encourages them to walk and move to keep from becoming stiff. Restrictions following surgery include avoiding heavy lifting and deep bending for several months.
Fields is grateful for Dr. Madigan’s straight- forward approach. She recalls, “He is
super nice. He will sit down and take the time to answer questions. He will tell you your options and not tiptoe around it.” Fields notes the importance of listening to doctor’s orders, particularly while recovering from surgery. “Do what the doctor says- if he says not to bend over,
don’t bend over. I think it’s import- ant to follow what’s recommended, especially in
“I feel 100 percent better – I have no pain,” she says. “I just highly recommend Dr. Madigan and Parkwest. He is a wonderful doctor and it was a fantastic facility.” For more information about the orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons at Parkwest, please visit TreatedWell.com.
Making Back Health a Priority
Luke Madigan, MD, spine specialist at Parkwest, explains that people who are obese are more likely to develop back pain because of the pressure on the spinal cord, but many issues are genetic. “Sometimes it’s just bad luck,” he says.
Dr. Madigan recommends engaging in regular physical exercise for one’s overall health. Discs and
joints in our back provide stability. “Having a strong core and flexibility helps people avoid
injury as they move. I think of strong muscles like shock absorbers in your car: if they are in
good shape, they help protect the joints underneath.”
Get Your Spine Facts ‘Straight’
The vertebral column, also called the spine or backbone, is made up of multiple vertebrae that
are separated by spongy disks. The spine is classified into four distinct areas:
- The cervical area consists of seven bony parts in the neck.
- The thoracic spine consists of 12 bony parts in the back area.
- The lumbar spine consists of five bony segments in the lower back area, five sacral bones and four coccygeal bones.
Spinal Injuries and Diseases
Parkwest’s orthopedic and spine program have been recognized both nationally and regionally for excellent outcomes and outstanding quality. Parkwest treats a wide range of spinal conditions including:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Herniated or ruptured discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spine tumors
- Spinal stenosis
- Spondylolysis and pondylolisthesis
Need a Surgeon?
Do you have back or neck problems that haven’t responded to other treatment? Our surgeons may have options to address your pain and get you back to enjoying everyday life. Call our physician referral line at (865) 374-PARK or visit TreatedWell.com.