Former Redwood City police Officer Jason Gamble is an example. He was breaking up a late-night fight, when his back became a casualty.
"I got into a tussle with an individual who didn't want to be arrested," he remembers. "And I felt a pop initially in my back."
That "pop" resulted in a back surgery to treat the original injury to his disc. But as his body compensated, he ultimately developed an excruciating condition similar to sciatica.
"It was awful," he says. "It was literally to the point where I couldn't sit down for five minutes."
Dr. Dimitriy Kondrashov, M.D., of St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco traced Gamble's pain to the sacroiliac joints in his pelvis, which were irritating the sciatic nerve. He recommended a newly adapted procedure known as iFuse, which uses implants constructed from titanium.
"That's been around in hip replacements for years, but now, the new twist is they're being applied to the pelvis where they've never been applied before," explains Kondrashov.
He says the procedure employs multiple x-rays to guide the placement of hollow titanium implants into the pelvis. A separate monitor gauges the location of surrounding nerves to make sure there's no contact. Once tapped into place, Kondrashov says the three individual implants will stabilize the sacroiliac joint, relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve. He says some patients are able to return home the same day, while others require several days in the hospital for the initial recovery.
"The goal is enable the patient to pretty much forget about it," says Kondrashov.
For Gamble, the surgery has been followed by an intense regimen of physical therapy. The results, he says, have been life changing.
"It's been fantastic, it really has. The first couple of days were rough coming off the surgery, but the first thing I noticed was I could sleep. I could shift around. I slept past 4 a.m., and I thought it was the greatest thing."
The iFuse system is FDA approved. The company, San Jose based S-I Bone, is conducting ongoing clinical trials tracking outcomes.
Written and produced by Tim Didion