What has happened to me in my journey to 4D Health.
My journey began like many of my patients. One day, I developed chronic pain in my lower back that steadily grew worse over the years. I tried to cope with the pain the way we all do, but nothing was working. Ultimately, the pain was so great that I had to limit certain physical activities. My energy level was dropping. My muscle mass was diminishing in spite of exercise and training. Fat was building all around my body. I knew I was entering a state of crisis.
I am a neurosurgeon. My primary practice is spinal neurosurgery. My goal has always been to maintain mobility and function for my patients. At the time, my tools were limited to various pain management protocols and spinal surgery. However, here I was, losing mobility and function due to chronic back pain. And the pain was getting worse and worse.
One day, while wearing a bathing suit, my brother-in-law looked at my back and told me that there were visible signs of trouble in my lower back.
“I can see your bones, Todd,” he said. “They look like they’re out of alignment in your lower back. Your bones are sticking out.”
I had an MRI and found that indeed he was right. My upper three discs were utterly collapsed; vertebra was stacked on top of themselves – bone on bone. With no cushion between the vertebra, nerves all along my back were being squeezed like pinched noodles. No wonder I was feeling such pain.
It was time to take action.
I knew that there was no way to restore discs that had gone to this state of degeneration. Surgery was the only answer, but to what extent and what were my options? At the time, the most common approach was spinal fusion, or in my case lumbar fusion.
Not too many years ago, we used to do fusions of the knees or the hips. After surgery and a successful recovery, the result was that you were without pain, but you could not move those joints any longer. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? So why do we want to fuse our spine? I am a swimmer. I surf, I ski, I enjoy walking, hiking and biking with my wife. Fusion would end everything.
At this time, surgeons were regularly replacing joints in the knees and hips. People are not only living without pain, but they also retained full mobility. So, I rejected lumbar fusion as the typical prescription for this type of problem and decided to have three artificial discs placed in my lower back. The key, I knew, was in getting ready for this kind of operation. I needed a better assessment of my state of health.
I was turning 50 at that time. My body could easily handle an operation, but I was thinking of my body’s ability to recover and rebound as quickly as possible. I decided I needed to perform a more aggressive evaluation.
I started with my hormone levels and discovered that my testosterone level was on the low side of normal. I looked at my nutrition and my exercise program. I also underwent full disease screening so that I was aware of my total body condition. I was about to undergo a life-changing surgery. Little did I know that I was also embarking on a career-changing transformation.
I worked with other professionals to create a very aggressive strengthening program that included a course of aging management treatments. My exercise program was a high-intensity interval training program designed to accommodate my condition. My nutritional program helped me take advantage of intensified exercise; supplements gave my body additional resources to help speed healing. I also underwent testosterone treatments. In a very short period, I knew I was prepared for surgery. And as I expected, my recovery was quick.
I have since become certified in the field of aging management medicine. I have attended conferences and undertaken additional training so that I may teach skills my patients need to achieve excellent results. Thanks to this very personal experience, I have learned how I can work with patients to improve spine health, bone health, and joint health through a comprehensive approach that preserves mobility and function.
Taking easy as we grow older is a mistake. We need a better mindset today that changes the way we think about our role in our healing process. Medicine and surgery are only part of the answer. We need to adopt a mindset for continuous improvement: change our lifestyle so that we can achieve the best results possible and truly be greater than better.