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Carrie Ann Inaba treats painful back injury

November 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
There's more than one winner on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." One of the show's judges is back to living an active life after battling a spinal condition that effects more than 400,000 Americans.

For Carrie Ann Inaba movement has been a way of life, but two years ago, the former dancer suddenly found herself in severe pain, on the set of "Dancing With the Stars."

"It was the middle of the season and I started to feel really, really stiff. I think it was two seasons ago and it just got worse and worse. I thought it was maybe because I was working out or maybe because maybe I wasn't working out. I couldn't figure out what it was, I tried everything and nothing helped," said Inaba.

The diagnosis was spinal stenosis -- a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pinching on the nerves. She says she underwent surgery and steroid injections to relieve the pressure.

"And it's pretty bad. I still have to watch it," said Inaba.

"If you get the patient very young, like Carry Ann, I think that if there's not a lot of deformity of the spine. And not a lot of nerve damage, essentially they can resume a normal lifestyle," said San Francisco surgeon Kenneth Light, M.D.

Light says new techniques are allowing doctors to treat spinal stenosis much more effectively. He says in the most common -- laminoplasty -- surgeons delicately remove small bone spurs from the interior of the spinal column, creating more space for the nerves of the spinal cord.

"We've found with through micro-surgical techniques we can go in an just remove the offending bone spurs and not have such a destructive operation to the rest of the spine," said Light.

He says the less invasive technique typically preserves more stability in the spine, making it less likely a patient would need to undergo a spinal fusion as part of the procedure.

"Dancing would certainly be possible," said Light.

Since her treatment, Inaba has turned to stretching and exercise to keep her back flexible, and hopes to avoid future surgery down the road.

"I do inversion tables, I do yoga, I do acupuncture, I do biofeedback, I do massage, I do everything to make sure it stays OK," said Inaba.

Light says in more complicated cases, disc replacement and advanced fusion devices can also offer relief.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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