Peter's Story


I suppose my story starts in the same way as many others who suffer from a painful back.

I was in my mid-thirties and had been working very hard as a lawyer, many long hours sat at my desk and no thought at all given to my posture and to the effect that my lifestyle was having on my precious back. It was the first day of my holiday and after a swim I bent down in the changing rooms to pick up my bag when my back went into an incredibly painful spasm. I was in agony.

Upon returning to Tokyo, where we were living at the time, my doctor diagnosed a disc bulge and gave me some exercises to do. The pain gradually subsided and after a while I forgot about my back problem.

We then moved to Dubai where I was able to take up a much more active lifestyle which included a lot of outdoor activities including golf and running. Unfortunately, my back problems then returned. Over a number of years I had a series of increasingly frequent episodes which included a lot of pain and an inability to stand up straight. After completing my first (and probably last ever) 10k run the back problems returned with a vengeance, this time with incredible pain throughout my right leg and buttock. I tried physiotherapy and a chiropractor, each with no success, and the pain became worse. I could barely walk.

It was a very depressing and desperate time but finally I met a wonderful osteopath and she gave me hope that I could finally do something about my back. I felt relief from pain after just one treatment. After many treatments and rehabilitation work with an excellent rehab specialist I felt fitter than I had been for years and almost free from pain. But then disaster struck, I was twisting to get a heavy bag in an overhead locker on an aeroplane when I felt the back go again; the pain had returned. Aside from the fact that I could no longer exercise, I now struggled to travel as I couldn't sit down for longer than 30 minutes without being in severe discomfort.

It was at this stage, and after having tried every other treatment and exercise, that the osteopath and I decided to look into the option of surgery. She recommended that I see Martin Knight.

The first thing that impressed me about Martin, aside from his obvious expertise in back problems, was that he really cares about his patients. I was expecting a consultation of about 15 to 30 minutes but he talked to me and my wife, discussing my back problems and the surgical options, for over an hour and a half. I felt very confident that Martin would be able to help me and after a very short while booked the operation for two months later.

The operation itself was not really as bad as I had expected. Firstly, everyone at the hospital was incredibly nice, friendly and caring which really helped. Being awake during the operation was an odd experience but not really a frightening or exceptionally painful one. As Martin explained, he wants his patients to stay awake so that they can tell him from where the pain originates which means that he is better able to identify and treat the sources of the problems. The pain that I experienced during the operation was no worse than what I was already suffering every day. I think the operation took around 2 to 3 hours but the time really did fly by.

I had my operation in the morning and the recovery was very quick. Within a couple of hours I was on my blackberry and felt fully alert and awake. By early evening I was up and walking and, after having seen a physiotherapist to go through my exercises, left hospital the next morning.

Although I had been told that I would only be able to walk slowly and for short distances after the operation I hadn't anticipated how slow I would be and how limited I would be in my ability to walk. It is worth taking this into account after your operation. I made the mistake of trying to walk through a busy crowd which was very stressful. If, like me, you also have to fly home after your operation remember how far away the airport gates can be from the lounge. I tried to walk to the gate and it took a long time! I should have asked for wheelchair assistance. The flight itself was a lot better than I thought it would be although I am glad I used air miles to upgrade myself to business class which gave me space to move around and stretch.

Martin gives you some very strict advice to follow during your recovery which I was happy to follow. It includes not returning to work too early after the operation and regular exercises which will be provided to you. I gradually became stronger and returned to work. I had my workstation ergonomically assessed and a new standing desk put into my office so that I could switch between standing and sitting. I also ensured that I didn't sit at my desk for too long before going for a short walk. I gradually passed a number of milestones which included sitting in a meeting for more than an hour, travelling by car for more than an hour, then flying for a couple of hours. I resumed exercise (including pilates which I really recommend) which was a wonderful feeling.

It is now 11 months since the operation, and although I still have some minor symptoms, my back is much better than it was. I felt strong enough over the summer to walk for over 30 miles over three days in South West England and to fly on several long haul flights around the World. The back has withstood the challenge! Thanks to Martin and his colleagues I am now looking forward to resuming an active lifestyle in the autumn and to taking up cycling and restarting golf.