Rock Island Arsenal employee and Army veteran, Ted Scully, and his granddaughter, Lucy, are buds. Best buds. Just ask him. “Yeah, she’s the apple of my eye. She was born on our 33rd wedding anniversary and we’ve been pretty inseparable ever since.” Making joyful memories is much easier for Ted, now that he’s off opiates, thanks to a back pain procedure performed by ORA Orthopedics’ Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Sanjay Sundar.
For years, Ted’s back pain was debilitating. “When I started seeing Dr. Sundar, I had been taking maximum doses of painkillers for about three years. I was in constant pain — it was so painful to move and affected everything. Before Lucy was born, I couldn’t walk for more than 100 yards, I couldn’t enjoy camping, hunting, and fishing. It hurt to move. I met Dr. Sundar in 2016 and he changed my life. Our goal was to get me off the narcotics and find a better solution.”
Ted’s back pain began when he was injured in an Army training accident. “I was Sgt. First Class in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. During training at Fort Bragg, NC, I was thrown off the back of a truck. I underwent spinal fusion surgery and six months to the day after my surgery, I was deployed to Iraq. I didn’t want my soldiers to go without me.”
Following his deployment, Ted says he had a few good pain-free years, but his back started to hurt again while stationed in Alaska. “I have arthritis in my hip and also at the fusion surgical site. I tried nerve blocks, physical therapy, epidurals, nothing was working.” Ted eventually began taking oxycodone, but says he was was tired and didn’t want to participate socially or pursue his favorite hobbies. “After three years on painkillers, my body was too used to them. There just had to be a better way.”
In 2016, Ted was referred to Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Sanjay Sundar. “I first met Ted at the Arsenal clinics. He was on oxycodone for neck and back pain. Together, we developed a treatment plan to get him off the narcotics. I recommended a procedure called ‘radiofrequency ablation’ or RFA. For patients like Ted who have chronic axial back pain, RFA works.”
RFA is a minimally invasive outpatient surgery that takes about 15 to 30 minutes and can be performed with mild sedation and a local anesthetic. Dr. Sundar performs RFA using an X-ray machine and a special camera. He carefully heats and inserts a needle that burns precise spinal nerves, stopping pain signals to the brain. “My patients are home the same day. The nerves do grow back, so Ted sees me about once a year. Otherwise, he does very well.”
“RFA is unbelievable!” says Ted. “After about three weeks, I was pain free. It’s amazing. When I left the military, I medically retired here at the Arsenal, but now I am full-time civilian. I was just too young to retire.”
Dr. Sundar says painkiller addiction is real, and that many patients should explore other long-term pain-relief options. “At ORA’s Pain Clinic, we are very conservative with pain meds so they are not overprescribed. Every patient has unique needs, and we evaluate and recommend the most effective option for each person: Their age, medical history, current pain condition, and life goals all play a part in developing a customized, long-term pain management plan.”
As for Lucy, she has a grandpa who can be an active part of her life, measuring days in smiles and not pain. “I can lift her and spend weekends with her. My memories will be joyous, not painful,” affirms Ted.
Dr. Sundar says patients like Ted Scully make all the difference. “It’s very rewarding and a great field of practice. I believe in keeping people active. There are many pain-relief options and our goal is to help patients return to their favorite activities, so that life becomes joyful again.”