Golf Legend Addresses the Pain of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis and Hits the Links Again
Back in 2004, golf legend Lee Trevino was so debilitated by the pain caused by lumbar spinal stenosis that he could not play golf nor do simple daily tasks like dress himself.
The former professional golfer who spent 22 years on the PGA tour and won six major championships, was bedridden for four months and feared he would never be able to return to his beloved sport.
Trevino has suffered severe back problems since 1975 when he was struck by lightning on a golf course, but it was the leg pain and back spasms caused by lumbar spinal stenosis or LSS that severely affected his quality of life. This narrowing of the canal that contains the spinal cord is most often the result of aging. It is the most common reason for back surgery in people aged 65 years and older in the United States. An estimated 6 million Americans suffer from LSS, with approximately 1.4 million being diagnosed annually. As the spinal canal shrinks, the nerves passing through it are compressed, often resulting in severe pain, weakness or numbness in the back, buttocks and legs. For many people, the only relief is leaning far forward as they sit, stand or walk.
After Trevino received numerous steroid epidural injections without satisfactory relief, he went to his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ralph Rashbaum, in 2005 for relief from his suffering. Dr. Rashbaum first recommended a decompressive laminectomy, a surgical procedure that involves removing a portion of the bone and tissue that covers the affected part of the spinal canal. Dr. Rashbaum scheduled the surgery, warning Trevino that the surgery could potentially render Trevino's spine unstable and he might never golf again.
The night before his laminectomy was scheduled, Dr. Rashbaum told Trevino he had cancelled the decompressive laminectomy. He explained he found a new treatment for the symptoms of LSS that might retain the rotation in Trevino's spine, allowing him to return to playing golf while alleviating his pain. Dr. Rashbaum recommended the X-STOP® system, a surgical procedure marketed by Medtronic, Inc. that is less invasive than a traditional laminectomy.
A week later, Trevino traveled to Cologne, Germany for the procedure. The X-STOP spacer was CE-marked in Europe 2002 and at that time of Trevino's surgery, the procedure hadn't yet received FDA approval in the United States. It has been available in the U.S. since November 2005.
Trevino paid for his surgery since it was done outside the U.S. Now that it is approved in the U.S., the X-STOP spacer procedure is covered by Medicare and by some private insurance companies. However, patients should check with their insurance providers to determine the specific reimbursement options that are available.
Trevino said he was a little sore from the surgery, but the debilitating pain that he had felt down his legs and the back spasms he had suffered was almost immediately gone. Right after the surgery, he asked Dr. Rashbaum what he could and could not do physically after the surgery. His doctor recommended that he resume his normal activities a few weeks after the procedure. After the X-STOP spacer procedure, it's important to follow the doctor's direction of when to resume normal activities.
Trevino was swinging a golf club a few weeks after surgery. Four years later, he is still at it, even playing periodically on the PGA Champions Tour. He said he has not felt the pain in his legs or had a back spasm since his surgery. While Trevino received satisfactory results, this therapy is not for everyone, and every patient should consult their physician to see if the X-STOP spacer is right for them.
"I have always been an active guy, but prior to the X-STOP system, there were days when I simply couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't do anything," Trevino said. "I was desperate for relief from the pain, as I know many people suffering with LSS must be. I want to help those people understand that there are treatment options that may help them get better.
"The X-STOP spacer allowed me to get back to enjoying the game I love so much, as well as living a more normal life," Trevino said.
The X-STOP system is the first interspinous process decompression device approved in the United States to treat the symptoms of LSS. Based on a patient's medical condition and history, it may be an option when other conventional treatments, such as physical therapy and epidural injections, are no longer effective or if a patient does not want to undergo conventional LSS surgery. Since the device has been available on the market, over 40,000 X-STOP spacers have been implanted worldwide.
For more information about lumbar spinal stenosis and the X-STOP spacer, go to