Team Approach Sets Overlake Apart for a Patient with Lasting Back Pain
January 15, 2024
As a young college student and dedicated athlete with a passion for weightlifting, Emmanuel Assa had few reasons to worry about his health. Pushing his limits at the gym was just part of his regular exercise routine. He never anticipated that a solitary weightlifting accident would have such significant health repercussions for years to come.
Emmanuel recalls the moment his back problems first started in 2015: “I did an incorrect deadlift with too much weight and that’s when I first herniated my disc.” After consulting with his doctor, Emmanuel began physical therapy to treat his pain. His condition improved in a few months and Emmanuel didn’t think much about it afterward.
It wasn’t until seven years later that the problem unexpectedly resurfaced, causing intense nerve pains in his leg. “I woke up one morning and went to stretch, and all of a sudden, it felt like my leg was on fire,” Emmanuel reflects. After the incident, he met with physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Llewellyn Packia Raj, MD, at Overlake Clinics Musculoskeletal Medicine, who recommended trying a non-surgical treatment path. “Not every patient requires surgery. In fact, more conservative treatments are typically sufficient in the majority of cases,” says Dr. Packia Raj.
"If you go to Overlake, you’re not in it alone. I felt supported every step of the way."
Emmanuel started his conservative care plan, including physical therapy, targeted injections and chiropractic care. After nearly a year of treatment, he decided to test his progress with a low-impact game of badminton. “I’m lunging for the birdie, twisting my body from right to left, and at the same time taking a heavy step forward with my left foot. At that moment, I could actually feel my disc compress,” he recalls.
Hours after the game, Emmanuel says the pain was unbearable. He returned to discuss his options with Dr. Packia Raj and determined that surgery would be the best path forward. Dr. Packia Raj then connected Emmanuel to Elliot Min, MD, a neurosurgeon with advanced specialized training in spine surgery, with the Eastside Neuroscience Institute—a partnership between Overlake Medical Center and EvergreenHealth.
After thoroughly reviewing Emmanuel’s health history, Dr. Min recommended a minimally invasive microdiscectomy procedure. “In a microdiscectomy, the damaged portion of a herniated disc is removed through a small incision. This eases the pressure on the irritated or compressed nerves,” explains Dr. Min. “It’s an outpatient procedure, so many patients can have the surgery and leave that same day.”
Emmanuel reports that recovery has been going smoothly and his back pain has almost entirely subsided. He’s grateful for the coordinated effort to get him back to a pain-free, active lifestyle. “Going to Overlake, you have access to this large interconnected support system. It’s really a team effort,” he reflects. “My primary care doctor, back specialist, and back surgeon all worked together to ensure the best possible patient care outcome.”
Through the Eastside Neuroscience Institute, Overlake Medical Center’s and EvergreenHealth’s shared vision is to provide high-quality, patient-centered neuroscience care to the Eastside and beyond.