AUSTIN -- Surgery would have cost a Camp Mabry soldier deployment and possibly his military career, but he's still on active duty thanks to a non-surgical treatment process.
Photos show SFC Jon Martinez during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 – a deployment delayed due to a back injury he suffered while lifting military equipment at Camp Mabry a few months earlier. He remembers hearing the pop in his back.
"Extreme pain set in, to the point where I fell to my knees," he said. "Every time I tried to stand straight up, the pain was so bad that I thought I was going to pass out, it hurt so bad."
Martinez had suffered two herniated discs, which occurs when the rubbery cushions between the vertebrae in the spine rupture, similar to the filling in a jelly doughnut squirting out. The herniated material can compress the nerves around the disc and create pain that can radiate through the back and sometimes down the arms and legs. Martinez worried because he thought surgery might be his only option.
"The first thing that comes to everybody's mind is, 'Oh my gosh,'" said Martinez. "'That's the end of my career.'"
Dr. Ai Mukai, an interventional spine and electro-diagnostic medicine specialist at Texas Orthopedics, put Martinez's mind at ease.
"As long as the herniated disc is out of the way of the nerve and it's not causing any nerve damage, there's really no surgery that's needed," said Mukai.
Mukai suggested an epidural steroid injection to reduce the inflammation around the spinal nerve and then an aggressive physical therapy program so Martinez could regain strength, get his pain under control and get ready to deploy to Afghanistan.
"He completed three tours in the last five years I've been treating him, so he's amazing," she said. "I'm grateful to him actually for what he's doing for our country."
Martinez said he's the one who's grateful for the treatment he received at Texas Orthopedics.
"It not only saved my career, but it saved my life," he said.
Click here for a link to Texas Orthopedics.