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Quality Spine Care at Rush

After five months of debilitating neck pain and arm numbness, Hinsdale resident Tom Conidi is finally symptom-free.

He says he has physicians at Rush University Medical Center — and curiously enough, his brother’s knee — to thank for it.

A Tale of Two Knees

Conidi’s circuitous journey began years ago when he blew out his own knee and had extensive surgery to repair it.

“They removed tendons, drilled and cut me in a couple of places,” he says. “About 10 years later, my younger brother had a similar injury. Surgeons put three little holes in his knee and repaired it arthroscopically.”

Seeing how far the field had advanced and how smooth his brother’s recovery was, Conidi decided that, if he ever needed another operation, he wanted the latest, state-of-the-art procedure.

So when he herniated, or ruptured, two discs in his neck, he did some research and learned about a procedure so new it was still in clinical trials at the Spine and Back Center at Rush — part of the comprehensive spine services there.

At the center, specialists in orthopedics, neurosurgery, pain and rehabilitation treat a variety of spinal problems, including ruptured discs in the neck and back.

In fact, Rush’s ability to handle the most complex cases is one reason U.S.News & World Report ranks Rush No. 8 in the nation in orthopedics —higher than any other hospital in Illinois — and No. 15 in the nation in neurology and neurosurgery.

Not Just Status Quo

As Conidi discovered, herniated discs can be challenging to treat.

Discs — the spongy pads between the vertebrae of the spinal column that absorb shock and allow the body to bend — herniate when part of the gel-like substance that forms their center pushes through the disc’s outer edge. This can put pressure on nerves, causing pain, numbness and weakness.

When physical therapy and epidural injections didn’t lessen Conidi’s pain, doctors he saw before coming to Rush recommended spinal fusion. This surgery involves removing the disc and fusing the vertebrae together. It relieves pain but may limit movement. Furthermore, it can stress adjacent discs, potentially leading to future problems.

Because Conidi had two ruptured discs, these possibilities concerned him. So when he read online about clinical trials investigating the replacement of damaged discs with artificial ones, he was excited. Then he discovered through a friend of a friend that such studies were being conducted in his own backyard at Rush.

Conidi met Frank Phillips, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Rush, and learned that he was a good candidate for a trial involving multiple artificial discs. Conidi signed himself up.

Now, with nearly full range of motion in his neck and no symptoms, it’s a decision he hasn’t regretted.

Always Looking Ahead

In their efforts to advance spinal care, researchers at Rush continually seek new and improved treatment methods. In fact, they are currently studying several different artificial discs.

“The expectation is that they will put less stress on the healthy adjacent discs and maybe protect them from wearing out over time,” Phillips says.

Although Conidi’s condition must be followed for several years, he’s thrilled with the results so far. He also has some advice for others.

“Seek out people who are trying to move their science forward and looking at new or better ways to do things, rather than just doing what they know has worked for a long time,” Conidi says.

“It’s been life changing. I went from barely making it through the day to getting my life back.”

Watch Your Back

If you haven’t experienced back pain yet, chances are you will. In fact, eight out of 10 people do at some point in their lives.

Simple treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, will often help. Overall, back pain can be quite severe for a few days or a week before it gets better. Within two to four weeks, most people note significant improvement.

You should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, which might signal a serious problem that requires medical attention:

  • Severe pain that does not lessen with rest, that becomes worse when you rest or that wakes you up at night
  • Back pain after a fall or injury
  • Back pain that extends down your leg or leg pain that increases if you lift your knee to your chest or bend over
  • Pain accompanied by weakness, bowel or bladder problems, numbness in your legs, fever or unintended weight loss

To learn more about back health, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874) or visit us online: Spine and Back Center at Rush.


Spine and Back Care at Rush

The Spine and Back Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, brings together the expertise of specialists from different disciplines in one location, pinpointing and treating the sources of spine, back and neck pain while offering the latest, most innovative nonsurgical and surgical treatment options.

At Rush, highly trained neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons and physiatrists (doctors who specialize in physical rehabilitation), nurses and physical therapists, come together for a team approach to spine, back and neck care.

Looking for More Health Information?

Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

Looking for Information About Other Medical Treatment and Services at Rush?

Visit the Clinical Services home page.

Looking for a Doctor?

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for people of all ages, from newborns through older adults.

Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the Rush doctor who’s right for you.


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