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Karen Lake

Karen Lake is a contributor to HealthyWomen.

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How Balloon Kyphoplasty Gave Me My Life Back After My Vertebral Compression Fracture

How Balloon Kyphoplasty Gave Me My Life Back After My Vertebral Compression Fracture

A freak accident left me bedridden, but this minimally invasive treatment let me start living again.

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I've been working as a house and pet sitter for a long time, and I'm good at my job. So when the dog I was walking lunged for another dog, I wasn't about to let go of the leash. Instead, I fell flat on my face — and felt something pop in my back. It was a vertebral compression fracture (VCF), although I didn't know it at the time. Nor did I know how quickly my quality of life would deteriorate because of my injury.

After my fracture, there were many days I thought I'd never be able to get out of bed again. But then I had a balloon kyphoplasty — which is a minimally invasive treatment for VCFs due to osteoporosis — and now I have my life back. I went from being debilitated by pain to virtually pain-free, all thanks to this simple outpatient procedure.

I have arthritis, so I had dealt with back pain before. What I felt after my fall was different. I went in for an X-ray, but the doctor didn't see anything wrong. So I went back to work, with the help of medication and a back brace. I was hoping the pain would go away on its own, but instead it got much, much worse. At that point, I knew something was seriously wrong.

Things started to go downhill very quickly for me. I was forced to give up the job I loved because I was in too much pain to work, even with medication. Before I knew it, I was bedridden. I had to hold onto the walls just to drag myself to the bathroom and back. The pain was excruciating.

After more doctor appointments and an MRI, I was diagnosed with a VCF. I finally understood why I was in so much pain, although there didn't seem to be much I could do about it.

The doctors I saw insisted my back would heal on its own after a while. They said I should rest and wait. I gave it a month, but the pain got worse instead of better. I told myself, "I can't live like this." But I also couldn't stand lying in bed and doing nothing. So I did some research, and I stumbled on the balloon kyphoplasty procedure. Immediately I thought, "Why didn't anyone tell me this was an option?"

I found a provider in my area who could perform the procedure and made an appointment. Knowing how well-equipped most medical facilities are to handle precautions around COVID-19, I felt very safe.

I was in and out in a single afternoon, and much to my surprise, the only pain I experienced was when they put in the IV. I didn't even feel discomfort from the procedure during the ride home. In fact, I probably could have driven myself (although I was grateful for the company of a friend).

For the first day or two after my kyphoplasty, I started to wonder if maybe the procedure hadn't worked. But by the third day, I had no pain at all.

After months of suffering, I was suddenly pain-free. I went from bedridden to fully functional, getting up and walking with zero pain. It was amazing! I truly felt like I had experienced a miracle.

And now? It has been more than six months since my kyphoplasty, and I'm still virtually pain-free. I'm active and I'm back at work, back to doing the things I love. The procedure gave me my life back, and I'm determined to live it to the fullest!

I still experience minor aches because of my arthritis, but it's nothing compared to the pain I felt from my VCF. Before, I could barely make it to the bathroom and back. Now, the pain from my vertebral compression fracture is just … gone.

Since my procedure, I've spoken with other people with VCFs who feel hopeless. They believe medication is their only option for managing their pain, but they worry about side effects and risk of addiction. I'm always so happy to recommend balloon kyphoplasty!

I understand that some may be reluctant to have a procedure done during a pandemic. I was nervous, too. But in my experience, health care providers are more than capable of preventing exposure. And the procedure itself is straightforward and painless.

Life is precious, and no one should have to spend it in pain. I'm so grateful that my kyphoplasty allowed me to start living again, and I hope sharing my experience will inspire others to reclaim their lives.

This procedure is not for everyone. A prescription is required. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of balloon kyphoplasty and whether it's right for you.

This resource was created with support from Medtronic.

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