Dancing & Running Marathons Pain-free After Back Surgery

Gina Pittenger injured her back but chiropractic couldn't help. She researched spine surgeons and found one that got her running and dancing pain-free.


Hi I’m Gina Pittenger, I’m a dentist. I want to tell you my story of where I was, and where I am. Right now is the best place I have ever been in. When you’re young and you have your mobility, you don’t think about it until you lose it. Four or five years ago I had an accident and fell into a hole in my backyard. It messed my back up severely. It was horrible, I was in pain, I didn’t know what to do. I went to a chiropractor, that was no good, didn’t work at all. He didn’t even take an x-ray, just adjusted me. The problem go worse and worse.


I didn’t know what to do. I kept going to private care physicians, and eventually I thought I’m just going to start researching the back surgery because this is something I need to do. But I was afraid that if I get back surgery I’m going to be one of these people that gets paralyzed in a wheelchair.


I was afraid that if I get back surgery I’m going to be one of these people that gets paralyzed in a wheelchair.

So I waited. I waited one, two years and the pain got worse and worse. Then I had another injury where I fell again and injured the back. At night I’d toss and turn to try to find a way that I could get comfortable to sleep. I took pain medicine, I thought I was going to be addicted to pain medicine...can’t be that way as a dentist. I thought what am I going to do?!

Finally I went to one doctor, and he said, “I know somebody that might be able to help you. His name’s Dr. McCord.” I made the appointment, got the X-rays, got the information I needed. I discussed it with my husband, and we decided to do it. I’ll tell you, it was the best decision of my life! I have had the best experience, everybody tells me that, but it is true. I’ve had the best experience of anyone I know of that’s had a back surgery. I am able to do everything I was able to do as a young person or child, maybe even more. Because I didn’t push the limits when I was little, but now I do. I’m 51, and I’m not getting any young, my kids are about to graduate and go to college, my husband and I are looking for activities. I thought, “What am I going to do?” I don’t want to be a sad empty nester...I started running! And I ran my first half-marathon in Savannah last year. For a 51 year old first timer I ran it in 3 hours 19 seconds. Which was pretty okay for a first timer. I was very proud of myself. My back was perfect. It never hurt!


For me I was terrified of surgery, thought I was going to be paralyzed. But I asked what kind of quality of life do I have now? Right now I have no quality of life because I can’t sleep at night, go to work I’m tired. My life was horrible for two, almost three years until I had the surgery. Once I had it, I did follow Dr. McCord’s post operative instructions to the letter. I will say for the first three weeks getting out of bed everyday, having my husband or mom walk me to the mailbox every day...I’m going to say it’s not the most pleasant thing. But I followed his instructions to the letter, did everything he said, started doing load-bearing exercises...because I wanted it to be right.


I came back for a post operative appointment, maybe three months later. I was already pushing myself to do stretches, it see if I could get back to where I was. And it wasn’t very long at all until I was already touching the ground with my hands. I have great mobility, I can move in every direction. I’m taking dance classes now, I’m going to do my first competition in March. It’s beginner level entry, but, there’s some pretty tricky moves that are involved in Latino dancing and waltz. But I love it! I’m happier than I’ve ever been. My back never hurts! I mean I cannot tell another person, unless you’ve been in my shoes, how much it has changed my life. Dr. McCord gave me back my life, because if I didn’t have the surgery, if I would have sat still and said nothing and just did nothing, letting fear dictate my life...I’d be at home now, probably on anti-depressants, probably hugely overweight, I don’t know where I’d be now. Right now is the best time in my life, feel like I had a fresh start, a new beginning. So I’d encourage anybody who needs something to be repaired, any procedure Dr. McCord can do to improve your back, I’d say go for it because it was the best decision of my life. It’ll be the best decision of your life.


I’m taking dance classes now, I’m going to do my first competition in March. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. My back never hurts!

I researched everything, I went online, found that he was board certified. I wanted to make sure that the surgeon who was going to do my work was completely qualified, because I’ve heard horror stories, I’m heard them all. And I’ve seen people and known people that have had back surgeries, and they didn’t follow the instructions of the surgeon and had bad results. Some had to have surgeries again because they didn’t follow the instructions.


When I first came to Dr. McCord, I was nervous. I was wondering how it was going to come out, what his personality would be like, what would the environment be like. As a professional, I kind of know what a patient is expecting from their provider. They want to be talked to like a human being, they don’t want to be just a number. They want to feel like they’re cared about and important. You’re not just a number for milking insurance and all that. When I came here, he was warm and friendly, the staff was so caring and sweet. He spent so much time explaining the x-rays to me and my husband. He stayed with us until we felt like we understood exactly what he was going to do. There were no questions in my mind when I left, that this is going to come out okay. This is going to be great.


Then when I was in the hospital, I remember the first time I woke up and Dr. McCord came in and gave me a hug. I thought I really like this guy (laughs)! I really really like this. I feel like he cares about me, my problem, and asked me how it was, explained what was going to happen like the next day. Because the surgery was a three-step process. First time on my back where they took some bone from my hip. Second day I laid on my back, third day I was on my stomach, where they did the back surgery from the back. Every single step of the way he was there, he explained it, my husband and I felt comfortable.


I tell so many people about Dr. McCord, he was just a fabulous, fabulous person. I wouldn’t want to go to anyone else. If I ever have any problems with my back, I’d be right back to here. He’s the best!


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