Four years ago, Ashley Owens was coaching basketball in Kingman, Arizona, when she was knocked down and suffered a painful landing. The active and healthy 31-year-old felt sharp pain when she was sitting and walking, but she pushed through and continued doing normal activities. Ashley was working as a traveling physical therapist and, days later, while lifting a patient’s legs into bed, she aggravated the injury. The pain became so severe, she could no longer walk.

For nearly a year, Ashley saw doctors and specialists and tried almost everything including medication, physical and psychological therapies, injections and nerve ablation to stop the pain. It wasn’t until she met Ali Araghi, D.O., a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon and the director of the spine division at The CORE Institute, and underwent minimally invasive sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion surgery, that the pain was finally alleviated.

HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

As an experienced physical therapist, Ashley is very knowledgeable about how muscles and joints work together and move within the body. When she was injured, she was immediately aware that something was wrong.

“I thought I had injured my sacroiliac joint and the pain was excruciating,” she recalled. “I couldn’t function and lost the ability to take care of myself.”

The sacroiliac joint is the strong connection that is formed where the bottom of one’s spine meets the pelvis. When the sacroiliac joint is disrupted, it can cause inflammation and severe, debilitating pain in the lower back, as well as the pelvis, groin, and hip. Many physicians have a hard time identifying an SI joint injury because it does not always easily appear on diagnostic imaging studies such as MRI or X-ray.

Ashley spent the next eight months enduring physical therapy and seeing several specialists to obtain an effective treatment plan. She tried everything but her condition continued to worsen.

“Eventually, I was completely bedridden and had to move into an assisted-living facility where I spent the next two years,” she said. “The doctors I saw couldn’t help me and I thought I would never walk again.”

HOPE ON THE HORIZON

In September 2017, Ashley met with Dr. Ali Araghi at The CORE Institute.

“Ashley was transported by gurney to the appointment because she had no mobility,” Dr. Araghi said. “I knew she was in extremely poor condition and had exhausted all other treatment options.”

After reviewing Ashley’s medical history and performing a physical exam, Dr. Araghi consulted with the pain management team and ordered a numbing medication be injected into Ashley’s sacroiliac joint to identify the pain source.

“It was evident that the injection significantly reduced her pain,” Dr. Araghi said.

Following the appointment, Dr. Araghi determined that Ashley was a good candidate for SI joint fusion surgery, where spine surgeons fuse the sacroiliac joint during a minimally invasive procedure.

RELIEF FROM PAIN

In October 2017, Ashley underwent SI joint fusion surgery at The CORE Institute on the left side of her sacrum. Two months later, Dr. Araghi performed the surgery on her right side.

“After surgery, I was immediately able to stand and walk a few feet with a walker,” she said. “The surgeries completely resolved my pelvic pain.”

Today, Ashley goes to physical therapy and is still working on regaining strength and range of motion that was lost during the time she was bedridden. Although she admits the healing process has been slow, she is making excellent progress.

After years of enduring pain, Ashley is excited about her future.

“I’ve returned to swimming, lifting light weights and shooting hoops and hope to go skiing this winter,” she said. “I am thankful for those who helped me survive this ordeal and am filled with gratitude for my incredible family, friends, and team of healthcare professionals, including Dr. Araghi, who gave me a second chance at life.”

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