With Help from Dr. Goel, Barrow Patient Krissy Nichols Says Goodbye to Years of Severe Chronic Pain and Now Enjoys a Healthy, Active Lifestyle

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Dr. Goel performs a procedure on a Barrow NeuroSpine & Rehab Center patient.

Cheerleading and gymnastics kept Chandler, Ariz. resident Krissy Nichols on her toes throughout her childhood and teenage years. But one day everything literally came crashing down. A cheering mishap caused Krissy to fall and nearly break her neck. She was hospitalized, put in traction, and although she was fortunate enough to recover from her injuries, Krissy was left with chronic, persistent back and neck pain.

Managing the pain became a way of life for Krissy. Over the years she tried repeatedly and desperately to find a solution, including numerous attempts at physical therapy, steroid injections, and multiple pain medications. Still, there was no effective “fix” for Krissy and she was restricted from participating even in the everyday activities she had previously enjoyed.

“I was taking medications three times every day, but my pain persisted so badly that I could no longer stand, bend, or walk. Eventually I was forced to leave my sales job. The pain had taken over and it felt as though my life literally came to a halt,” says Krissy.

The chronic pain persisted, for decades, until tragically everything came to a head in December of 2014.

Krissy’s mom fell ill and she found herself playing the role of caregiver, consequently neglecting her own tenuous health. This reality, coupled with the stress of her mother’s declining health, took its toll on Krissy’s persistent pain condition. The pain reached its climax on the evening of her mother’s funeral. Krissy collapsed and her family rushed her to the ER at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, which is also home to Barrow Brain and Spine’s world-class NeuroSpine & Rehab Center.

Because surgery is simply not the right solution for every patient that comes to Barrow, doctors at the NeuroSpine & Rehab Center primarily treat patients with sports injuries and severe pain issues using innovative nonsurgical alternatives.

Thus, after being discharged from the ER, Krissy was referred to Dr. Parul Goel, Barrow’s expert in interventional pain management. She diagnosed Krissy’s medical condition as lumbar facet mediated pain, which often affects a patient’s ability to sit, stand, walk and perform “normal” daily activities.

After discussing Krissy’s goals – to reduce pain medications and resume physical activities – Dr. Goel forumlated a personalized treatment plan to help Krissy regain the active, healthy lifestyle she missed and craved.

“The quality care, communication and interaction with Dr. Goel and her team was so cohesive and wonderful. It never felt clinical; I felt like they cared enough to get to know me in order to deliver the best treatment,” reflects Krissy.

The treatment plan included Barrow in-house physical therapy twice per week for 11 weeks followed by a radiofrequency ablation, which is a procedure performed under fluoroscopic guidance in which the medial branch nerves that are located in the facet joints of the spine are lesioned off painlessly by the use of radiofrequency waves.

According to Dr. Goel, “A radiofrequency ablation procedure is particularly effective for patients like Krissy with severe neck and low back pain, symptoms of which have not responded adequately to physical therapy and medications.”

However, in order to determine if Krissy would be a good candidate for this treatment, Dr. Goel performed a detailed history and physical exam followed by a trial of medial branch nerve blocks to assess Krissy’s candidacy for this procedure. Krissy was relieved to learn she passed this exam with flying colors!

While radiofrequency ablation patients typically experience relief following the procedure within 7 to 10 days, Krissy felt immediate relief and she was amazed by how easy the treatment was. “After decades of persistent pain, I was in and out of the ablation treatment in 15 minutes… with almost immediate, life changing results!”

In fact, she was so pleased with the pain relief for her lower back since undergoing treatment at Barrow that she plans to undergo another round of ablation treatment with Dr. Goel to reduce lingering neck pain. Since the initial treatment, she has achieved her goal of reducing her pain medication regimen and she has been able to significantly increase her activity level, even embarking on a new career in real estate.

“Those of us who have lived with chronic pain know that it affects your entire attitude and outlook on life,” says Krissy. “Today, I’m 53 years old and I can finally say that I have a new lease on life. Thanks to Dr. Goel and her incredible team, I’m living pain free and loving every minute!”

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