A strep throat and antibiotics are a rite of passage in our modern world. In addition, many times we doctors prescribe antibiotics because the patient has an expectation of getting them for a cold or other infection. For Sonya, it was a combination of an antibiotic (Levaquin) and a steroid (prednisone) for a dental infection that triggered a tsunami of side effects, leading to antibiotic tendonitis, a back fusion, more side effects, and, finally, disabling chronic pain.
Spoiler alert: Sonya’s story has a happy ending and very happy new beginning, but it’s her journey through lost hope and the strength (and a conversation with her physical therapist) she found to push past it that allowed her to reclaim her active lifestyle. Be sure, especially, to watch her moving testimonial above.
For Sonya, a music teacher for special-needs kids and speech pathologist, playing music and dancing with her preschool students is a huge part of who she is. She is also a very active person in her personal life, enjoying biking swimming, yoga, dancing with her husband, and other activities. But in 2010, at the age of 43, after taking Levaquin and prednisone for a dental infection, Sonya began experiencing side effects immediately, and her active lifestyle deteriorated in an instant. What happened? Antibiotic tendonitis and tendon damage.
Antibiotics come in many different families based on their chemical structure. One of these is called the fluoroquinolones or “quinolones” for short. These drugs include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), norfloxacin, and many others at this link. These drugs can be prescribed for colds, bronchitis, urinary tract and eye infections, and many other issues. The quinolones have been associated with tendon damage, called antibiotic tendonitis, in many studies. One mechanism that’s been proposed is that these drugs increase the levels of tendon breakdown chemicals known as MMPs.
Not only did Sonya experience intense shoulder, neck, and leg pain, but she could barely walk and had difficulty even breathing. Participating in the activities above that defined her active lifestyle were an impossibility. An MRI of Sonya’s back revealed two cervical discs that had herniated so far into her spine, her spine wasn’t even visible on the MRI.
In December of 2010, Sonya underwent surgery to fuse her cervical spine from the C5 to the C7 level. Unfortunately, instead of solving her problems, the spinal fusion just made things worse, adding on the inability to move her neck, increasing migraines, and continued excruciating pain. In her own words, “It [the surgery] destroyed my life!” She hadn’t just given up hope of ever reclaiming her active lifestyle—at this point, her disabilities were so advanced, she felt certain death was imminent and began preparing for her family’s future without her.
Sonya’s experience with her back fusion isn’t isolated. We’ve covered the many problems—such as stopping movement, damaging adjacent structures, and causing more pain—associated with back fusions many times over the years.
In 2012, Sonya began her road to recovery after a conversation with her physical therapists led her to Regenexx and a regenerative-medicine solution using injections of her own platelets. The first thing Sonya noticed after beginning her injections was that she was able to sleep again. Now, again in Sonya’s own words, “I can dance with the kids again. I can dance with my husband again. I can ride my bike again. I can swim again. I can do yoga again. Words can’t even express how wonderful it is to not have to go through surgeries and to not have to take my pain medications or any kind of medications and be able to do the things I love again.”
The upshot? How many times have you seen those drug commercials on TV and the huge list of side effects that go along with them and thought, Gosh, the side effects sound worse than the problem itself? Whether it’s a drug or a surgery, as Sonya’s story reflects, the side effects can be brutal. But as Sonya’s story also reflects, there are nonsurgical regenerative-medicine options out there.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…