Getting Back to Business After Successful Spine Surgery

Christine can walk tall and without pain down the streets of New York City.

After successful spine surgery to treat debilitating pain, Christine Capella is excited to get back to work.

Edited by:

For months, Christine Capella experienced terrible headaches that radiated down her right arm—getting in the way of her work as a second grade teacher and fitness coach.

“I had hoped I could just deal with the pain—and I did for years,” the New York City resident said. “But, over time, the pain just got progressively worse. It got to the point that I had to go to the emergency room because it was so bad. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.”

Several years ago, Christine was the victim of a physical assault by a stranger that left her with a broken nose, concussion and severe neck pain. While her physicians prescribed various medications, the drugs did not offer lasting relief. Luckily, she was referred to Griffin Baum, MD, MS, a spine surgeon at Lenox Hill Spine who specializes in complex cases and minimally invasive techniques.

“Christine had multiple levels of disc disease and arthritis in her spine that was causing that pain,” Dr. Baum said. “She was experiencing a cervicogenic (originating in a different location) headache, which is a little different than your typical migraine. It’s actually a referred neck pain that can travel up the back of the head and down the arm.”

After taking one last shot at a nonsurgical approach using medication, Dr. Baum recommended Christine undergo an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), a procedure in which a damaged disc is removed to relieve spinal cord pressure and alleviate pain.

“With this surgery, we actually use the natural tissue planes of the body to go down the front of the spine to remove the damaged discs in between the vertebrae and replace them with a bone graft,” he explained. “It allows us to remove the diseased discs, remove the area of arthritis and decompress the spinal cord, relieving the source of the pain.”

While Christine said she was initially wary of undergoing surgery, Dr. Baum’s experience, knowledge and bedside manner immediately put her at ease.

“He took the time to really talk me through all my X-rays and MRIs,” she said. “He has spine models in his office and showed me everything that was going on, and why this option would help. I felt very confident in him and confident that this was the right route to take.”

About a year out from surgery, Christine has gotten her quality of life back. She is back in the classroom and also works as an online health and fitness coach.

“It’s definitely given me back my energy. I’m not just totally exhausted at the end of the day,” she said. “This surgery was really life changing for me. The care I received from Dr. Baum and the entire staff at Lenox Hill was just impeccable. I can’t say enough good things about my experience.”