Brendan O’Donnell used to be in pain every day of his life. From the moment he put his feet on the floor in the morning until he fell asleep at night, excruciating back pain affected his relationship with his wife, children, co-workers, and friends. Now 45, the Millstone resident said he began feeling a dull sensation in his back in his late 20s. Every few weeks while working on his hands and knees, Brendan’s back would tense up and lock with pain. The pain would persist for a week or two each time. He sought chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, reflexology, and reiki—with little relief. The dull sensation persisted, accompanied by a tennis ball-sized lump on his back.
When he saw a sports medicine physician, Brendan learned that he had three herniated and bulging discs in the lower lumbar section of his spine. The physician detailed the surgical options to correct the condition, but Brendan felt surgery was too drastic at his age. Given his preferences, his wife, Natalie, recommended that he call Mariam Ghobriel, MD, a board-certified pain management specialist at CentraState.
After reviewing Brendan’s MRI scans, Dr. Ghobriel explained his nonsurgical options, noting that Brendan would likely benefit from lumbar facet injections.
“Dr. Ghobriel focused on my personal well-being and health,” Brendan says. “She presented all of the facts and risks and encouraged me to speak with my primary care physician about the decision.”
Before he began lower spinal injections, Brendan couldn’t pick up his son Reily from his crib. He couldn’t play catch with older son Kincaid. And perhaps most importantly, he couldn’t hug Natalie. About four days after the second round of injections, he stepped out of bed and the pain was gone.
A Vastly Different Quality of Life
“That moment of being pain free,” Brendan recalls, getting emotional, “I didn’t know I was living with chronic pain until I didn’t feel it anymore.”
Brendan received a series of upper and lower lumbar facet injections, and his quality of life continued to improve. He wasn’t as tired as before starting treatment, and he was able to focus more because he was no longer distracted by constant pain. Dr. Ghobriel also treated his right knee and a pinched nerve in his neck. Again, the pain disappeared. Brendan says he understands the injections provide pain relief but aren’t a cure for the bulging discs.
Surgery still may be required, but for now he’s enjoying playing with his children, fly fishing, and coaching lacrosse at Millstone Township Elementary School. He even started skiing again.
“I didn’t realize I had been short-tempered with nearly everyone in my life—that’s how much the pain affected me,” says Brendan, who owns a contracting company. “The way I hold myself has changed. I feel stronger and more confident.”
The Spine Institute of Central Jersey at CentraState provides customized solutions for relieving pain and improving function. For more information, call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).