Back pain is an all-too-common ailment in the United States. In fact, at any given moment, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain. But now, a groundbreaking clinical trial on lower back pain could mean lasting relief four countless individuals.
And all it would take is a 25-minute surgery.
Jen Christianson is a 41-year old athlete. On any given day, you’ll find Christianson swimming laps at the Wisconsin Athletic Club in Menomonee Falls. However, only three years earlier, you wouldn’t have found her anywhere near a pool or doing anything remotely athletic. Despite being a past marathon runner and zumba teacher, Christiansen was nearly bedridden.
“I could barely sit in the car. Tears were constant. The pain was so severe,” said Christianson.
Due to her debilitating back pain, Christianson was no longer able to enjoy any of the physical activities she once loved partaking in. And when she went to doctors, medical experts had difficulty pinpointing the source of her pain. They sent her for MRIs on her spine, but the results came back normal.
Eventually, a doctor traced Christianson’s pain to her SI joint, located between the base of the spine and the hip socket. That diagnosis led Christianson to a new clinical trial that would change her life completely.
Along with nearly 150 other participants, Christrianson enrolled in a clinical study for a new surgery, called SI joint fusion surgery. She was among half the patients in the trial that were randomly selected.
“It was a higher power. It was so meant to be,” said Christianson.
Led by Dr. Clay Frank, the clinical trial’s surgery entails a minimally invasive procedure that involves the insertion of three titanium bars into the joint, using a small incision in order to push the muscle fibers apart to access the bone. The titanium bars are then hammered into the joint using a four-pound mallet.
Ultimately, the clinical trial was an overwhelming success, with 80% of patients reporting pain relief post-surgery. And among the non-surgical group, just 20% reported pain relief.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have never seen a tool this powerful,” said Dr. Frank.
For Christiansen, the surgery was life-altering. She never thought she would see the day where she would be able to get into the swimming pool with her seven-year-old daughter. But totally, it is reality.
“My life today, it’s changed totally,” said Christianson.