Watch CBSN Live

New Relief For Back Pain

Chronic back pain from damaged spinal discs is a fact of life for about one million Americans. Until recently, sufferers had few options to ease their pain. Dr. Mallika Marshall from CBS affiliate WBZ-TV in Boston reported on The Early Show about an experimental procedure called total disc replacement that has been performed in Europe for the past decade.

Looking at her now, you'd never know that 45-year-old Pat Guessferd was recently in a serious car accident that left her with crippling back pain.

"I couldn't even get out of bed in the morning," she recalls. "I couldn't even tie my shoes myself."

Not willing to endure a life of pain killers or an irreversible spinal fusion, Guessferd chose to undergo an experimental artificial disc replacement.

"I think the beauty of this is that it restores range of motion," says Dr. Rick Delamarter, an orthopedic surgeon at the Spine Institute. "It doesn't make you stiff like a fusion. And it eliminates pain, and that's the bottom line."

The Pro Disc may be made of chrome and heavy-duty plastic, but it works much like the real thing. It can flex, extend and move from side-to-side. A disc fusion, on the other hand, immobilizes part of the spine, which can cause even more stress and, in severe cases, damage to other discs and vertabrae.

Explains Delamarter, "With an artificial disc replacement which allows motion, we are able to delay -- or perhaps avoid -- degeneration above and below that diseased disc level."

Critics of the Pro Disc want to see more long-term research before they label it a success. But Pat doesn't need any studies to tell her that she feels better.

"I don't have the pain in my leg any more," she says. "I am virtually almost pain-free."