Kristin Avoids Surgery Through the Combined Efforts
of the Chicago Brain & Spine Institute and Galter LifeCenter


Chicago Brain & Spine and Galter

For Kristin, a north side Chicago resident, an active lifestyle is a way of life. But when a weightlifting injury caused severe and persistent lower back pain, she faced physical limitations that kept her from doing the things she loved.

As an active member at Galter LifeCenter, and a dedicated patient of Swedish Hospital, Kristin knew exactly where to go to recover mobility and salvage her prior quality of life. Kristin consulted Dr. Daniel Laich, an internationally renowned neurological surgeon at Swedish Hospital’s Chicago Brain & Spine Institute. “I decided to see Dr. Laich because I knew he would have the best knowledge of what was wrong and how to treat me,” Kristin said. “He was wonderful and explained complicated things in an uncomplicated way.”

Dr. Laich began by scheduling an MRI to discover the source of Kristin’s pain. The test revealed that Kristin’s spine was genetically predisposed to injury. The herniated disk that she was suffering from was a result of exasperating a weak area of her spine during weightlifting.

The Chicago Brain & Spine Institute’s philosophy of care is a holistic and comprehensive approach to spinal health, taking time to consider each patient’s personal preference for care, age, lifestyle, activity level, symptoms and pain to ensure the care is tailored to the individual’s needs. Taking these considerations into account, Dr. Laich determined most effective treatment options for Kristin’s specific case, and presented the various possibilities to Kristin for review. 

Instead, Dr. Laich recommended physical therapy and Pilates, both offered at Swedish Hospital’s affiliated certified medical fitness center, Galter LifeCenter, as a means to strengthen the muscles surrounding her spine. Using the iPad, he showed her how these activities could improve her condition and minimize pain. 

Kristin worked with Heather Baker, a physical therapist at Galter LifeCenter. The MRI results Dr. Laich provided helped Heather craft a personalized care plan for Kristin, allowing her to better recover from her injury and prevent future pain from her genetic weaknesses. 

“Each week she would start by massaging the problem area and asking how I was feeling,” Kristin said. “We went over different exercises I could do each week both on my own at home and at the gym. I felt improvement each week I saw her.” 

At the time Kristin began seeing Heather, she had been unable to sit through the length of a movie without severe back pain. Through therapy, Kristin was able to return to the active lifestyle she had given up because of her injury. 

“I found Galter LifeCenter classes that worked the muscles I had been strengthening with Heather: fluidity barre, group core and Pilates classes have all been great,” she said. “I’ve been keeping up with my exercising and I barely feel the pain. And I love my fitness classes so it’s an extra bonus!”

As a community hospital, Swedish Hospital prides itself on the relationships providers establish with their patients. For Kristin, the care and attention she received allowed her to establish a medical support system to prevent further injury. 

“I truly appreciated Dr. Laich’s overall approach to wellness, and I can tell he really cares about his patients,” Kristin said. “With Heather, I feel like I made a new friend. We got to know each other and she was always responsive over email when I had a question. Now when I see her at the gym she says hi and asks how I am. She’s very knowledgeable and helpful and easy to work with!”

Laich, Daniel 250x250Daniel T. Laich, D.O., has nearly 25 years of experience in spine care and neurological surgery. He specializes in therapeutic and minimally invasive spine treatments, including endoscopic and arthroplasty surgeries, as well as spine reconstruction. He was a fellow when he started a study on the Charite artificial disk, and with Rick Fessler, M.D., Ph.D., as he pioneered minimally invasive spine surgery. He continues his academic pursuits both in the U.S. and abroad. His athletic lifestyle provides extra interest in caring for the injured athlete. 

For more information on the Chicago Brain & Spine Institute, please call 773-271-2225.

For more information on outpatient rehabilitation services, including physical therapy at Galter LifeCenter, or to schedule an appointment, please call 773-878-6888.

And to learn more about the group fitness classes offered at Galter LifeCenter, please call 773-878-9936.

By David Modica | Published November 30, 2015
Ready to Safely Care for You

Swedish Hospital is operating under enhanced safety protocols to provide a comfortable and safe environment for our patients, physicians, nurses and hospital staff.

Learn More
Michael Finds His Key to an Active Future

"Now that I’m pain free and mobile, I’m able to enjoy a much improved quality of life, and hope to soon take classes to become a nurse practitioner and return to work."

Learn More