Cheryl Payne

New shoes, steroids, massage therapy — none of these relieved Cheryl Payne’s back pain as minimally invasive surgery did

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Growing a pain-free life: minimally invasive spinal surgery at Methodist Dallas Medical Center restored Cheryl Payne’s flexibility to bend, allowing her to cultivate her gardening interest again. Although daily pain can become a way of life, Cheryl Payne found the power to leave it behind in minimally invasive spinal surgery.

“The pain started about five years ago; there hadn’t been an accident or incident, so I couldn’t figure out the cause,” she says, adding with a laugh that she even wondered if the increasing pain in her lower back was due to her shoes. “I must have spent $500 on several different pairs, but that didn’t help.”

Through the years, she kept seeking ways to lessen the pain that interfered with each day’s activities.

“I thought maybe it was stress, so I tried massage therapy, but that only helped for a day or so at a time,” Payne says. “Then I saw some pain physicians and began taking steroid injections. The first shot lasted nearly a year, the second one about eight months, and the third one didn’t last a month. Plus, my job involves a lot of sitting, which made the pain worse, so I was taking pain meds every day.

“I have two daughters, and I was trying to live life and do things with my family, but I couldn’t do what I wanted,” she says. “It seemed like all I was doing was taking something for the pain, going to work, and coming home exhausted every day.”

The turning point

Payne says it never occurred to her to see a neurosurgeon until one day this past January. As a presurgical assessment nurse at the hospital, Payne assists in screening patients for elective surgeries. But on that day, she helped a patient whose case seemed all too familiar.

“She was in a wheelchair and was preparing for back surgery, and she had many of the same symptoms I experienced,” Payne says. “It made a strong impression on me.”

The patient’s neurosurgeon was Nimesh H. Patel, MD, a physician practicing at the Methodist Brain and Spine Institute. After a visit with Dr. Patel and having an MRI scan, Payne learned that she had a herniated disk and an annular tear.

“The herniated disk was the source of my pain, and Dr. Patel recommended a microlumbar diskectomy procedure [MLD] as the solution,” she says. “I wanted to have the surgery the next day!”

Relief at last

Payne’s surgery was scheduled for February at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

“It was awesome!” she says, beaming. “I had surgery at 7 that morning and went home pain-free early that afternoon. Even in the recovery room, I had no pain. I didn’t need my heating pad or pain meds, and I could comfortably lie flat — something that I had not done for years.”

Before the onset of her back pain, the vibrant DeSoto resident loved walking, gardening, and spending time with her husband on their sailboat. Those pleasant activities had fallen by the wayside when back pain robbed her of an active life.

“After the whole shoe thing, the physical therapy, those shots, and all the pain meds, it’s nice to feel my productivity increase at work and get back to doing things I love,” Payne says.

The right fit for you?

For those with back pain, Payne suggests they check out spinal surgery options and heartily recommends Dr. Patel. She says with a laugh, “I just love the guy”— so much so that she recently brought her father from his Houston home for a consultation with him.

“I’m sailing on weekends and doing everything again now,” Payne says brightly, with tears of joy welling up. “This has just changed my whole life.”