Beating Crippling Back Pain

The back pain that brought Al Lambiase to Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine was so excruciating – so unrelenting, even if he tried not to move a muscle – that he was essentially bedridden for more than a month.

When Dr. Scott Bradley heard Lambiase’s story, the pain management specialist immediately gave up his lunch hour for an emergency appointment to administer an epidural steroid injection. Over the next several months, Dr. Bradley gave Lambiase two more injections and also prescribed an at-home medication for radiating pain, along with physical therapy to help rebuild his atrophied muscles.

Once the 75-year-old Army veteran had regained enough strength, he underwent a successful back surgery the following January with another HROSM physician, Dr. John Aldridge.

“These doctors truly brought me back to life,” Lambiase says. “I’m a pretty tough, hard-charging guy, but this absolutely wiped me out. I’m not ashamed to say that I was in tears at my first appointment. It was just horrific pain that spread through my whole body.”

Lambiase had an extruded herniated disc in his lower back, a degenerative condition that placed enormous pressure on the nerves in his spine. He was so debilitated that he would not have tolerated surgery and recovery well without first receiving conservative treatments, says Dr. Bradley, a fellowship-trained physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.

“This is the perfect example of a problem that goes beyond a single, quick fix,” he notes. “We got him 70 to 80 percent better, and then surgery took him the rest of the way. It was wonderful to be able to step in quickly – when clearly there was no time to waste – and watch him regain his independence.”

The crippling pain began to ease within a week of Lambiase’s first injection and progressively improved over the next four months. “I went from wheelchair to walker to cane,” he reports. “To me, it seemed miraculous to simply be able to stand up and walk again.”

Lambiase had already been a satisfied HROSM patient seven years earlier, when he underwent a total hip replacement with Dr. Daniel Cavazos. His back surgery involved removing a portion of a damaged vertebra, installing a spacer device, and cleaning out debris, all to relieve pressure within his spinal cord. “Everyone at HROSM treated me with such patience, care, and sensitivity,” he says.

Most importantly, the New York City native is back to living his dream after a busy career in military intelligence: an idyllic life on 7½ acres in New Kent County, where he and his wife share space with bald eagles, deer, and rabbits and he enjoys hiking, swimming, and tackling home improvement projects.

“I do have to remember that I’m not 18 anymore,” he says with a smile. “No heavy lifting. Still, I’m strong enough for just about every activity I want to do. I feel so grateful and blessed.”