The practice of yoga demands skill, strength, and an intimate knowledge and confidence in your body.
For Daina Lewis, 42, Moline, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Shine! Yoga and Bodyworks, it was her strength, knowledge and fortitude that likely saved her yoga career.
“I was a gymnast before coming to yoga, so I love being upside down!” says Daina.
“Last fall, I was doing a headstand challenge, and when I came out of the pose, I felt a twinge in my trapezoid muscle. It felt a bit strange but, otherwise I was okay.”
However, two days later, her symptoms worsened considerably.
“I woke up to excruciating pain down my right arm. It was terrible. I knew something was pushing on something.”
Three weeks later, after sporadic sleep, several doctor visits, gentle traction and adjustments, as well as massages, an MRI finally pinpointed the problem — Daina was suffering from herniated discs in her neck.
“I was so scared. Yoga is my passion and my livelihood, and I was barely able to move my right arm. It was frightening to even consider that I may not be able to practice or teach as I have for almost 20 years,” Daina recalled.
“When she was referred to me, she couldn’t extend her arm over her head. She was in excruciating pain and understandably worried,” says ORA Orthopedics Spine Surgeon, Dr. Michael Berry.
“Her MRI showed that two discs in her neck, a degenerative and herniated disk, were pressing on a nerve that caused the pain down her arm,” Dr. Berry says.
“ORA’s approach is to listen to patients and understand their treatment goals — what life activities, sports, or work do they desire to return to as normally as possible? In Daina’s case, her livelihood as a practicing yoga instructor meant we could not simply mask the pain, our goal was to prevent further nerve damage and get Daina back to her previous level of fitness.”
Dr. Berry’s solution: a spinal procedure called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
“It’s a common and effective surgery. Even Peyton Manning has had the procedure and then went on to win a Super Bowl. It was the right course for Daina.”
The procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis.
“I have patients regularly go home within a few hours, and post-surgery outcomes usually mean few restrictions,” explains Dr. Berry, who performs between 50-100 a year.
Dr. Berry begins the procedure by making a small incision in the front of the neck.
“I use a microscope, look between the spine, and remove the cartilage and herniated disc to take the pressure off. We create stability when I fuse the vertebral segments to each other. Over the next 3 months to a year, the bones will grow together.”
“Dr. Berry was amazing,” says Daina.
“My arm pain was gone when I woke up. I wore a neck brace for the first week. He encouraged me to move mindfully, turn my head, and not to sit still. I found that range of motion in my head and neck again. People can’t be afraid to move,” she says.
“Yoga definitely prepared me for handling this. I kept moving and took great care of myself. I’m a student of the body and have confidence in its ability to adapt. I had moments of doubt, and I was mourning the changes to my body, but I came through.
“My outlook is a lot better now and I have learned to modify yoga poses as needed. I tell everyone facing this, ‘Trust your body and seek support from family and friends. Just listen to your body.’ I have found a new way to live and the worst is behind me. There is always a way!”