Injections beat back surgery for Birmingham policeman Alfie

Alfie Ratcliffe
Alfie Ratcliffe
Spinal treatment
Corporate private medical insurance

When Birmingham policeman Alfie Ratcliffe found himself writhing on the floor and unable to move he was sure he’d lost his three year battle with back pain and was facing major surgery on his spine.

But three injections later 28-year-old Alfie is back at work and, more importantly, able to play with his three-year-old son Harry.

“I can’t believe I’m back on my feet and back at work without having had an operation. My recovery has been incredible” he said.

My life is returning to normal. I am able to return to the ‘rough and tumble’ of playing with my son and I am also back at work

Alfie first injured his back about three years ago, “It was a silly mistake. I was putting some equipment down without bending my knees. From then on I had the pain radiating down my legs every single day,” he explained.

Alfie dealt with the pain day in and day out until last summer when he bent down to pick up his car keys and simply collapsed in a heap on the floor as his back gave way.

“I was in agony, I began retching as if I was going to be sick and I was extremely hot and light headed, I felt like I was going to pass out. After about five minutes I managed to drag myself to the foot of the stairs and shout to my wife to come and help me.

“As soon as I could move at all we went straight to hospital and I thought this is it – I’m going under the knife!”

Alfie, who was covered by the Police Healthcare Scheme, met with Consultant Spinal Surgeon Mr Mushtaque Ishaque at BMI Priory Hospital in Birmingham.

“I had been prescribed pain killers by my doctors but I felt my back needed more urgent attention. I had been signed off but, to be honest, I wanted to get back to work as quickly as possible and so I was grateful I was in the police health scheme.

Mr Ishaque immediately began further investigation and after checking my NHS referral he informed me that the NHS diagnosis did not seem entirely correct as it didn’t explain why I had pain radiating down both legs.

“He sent me for an immediate X-ray at The Priory and contacted the NHS hospital in order to get a copy of the actual MRI scan. The further investigation showed that I also had a twist and bend in my spine.”

“I had my mind set on surgery,” said Alfie, “But Mr Ishaque had other ideas.”

Instead of operating, Mr Ishaque decided to administer specially targeted steroid injections into Alfie’s damaged disc. It took immediate effect and reduced the pain but it was then discovered that there was a second disc affected.

Following another MRI scan Mr Ishaque convinced Alfie that injections might still be the answer and carried out another injection around the new damaged disc and a repeat injection around the original disc herniation

Mr Ishaque explained: “I always say that if you want to crack a nut, leave the sledgehammer in the shed and first try a nutcracker!

“The key is to properly target the area that needs the cortisone injection. The more localised the injection the more successful it will be.”

“When I suggest an injection rather than an operation many patients are doubtful – many seem to initially prefer the surgery option. However, I tell them that with an injection one of three things will happen– they will get better, things will stay the same or it will get worse. Half of my patients report immediate relief, while up to 80% go on to experience full pain relief.”

“If the patient is unfortunate then we always have the option to operate but it really is worth taking the injection route first.”

As for Alfie, he said: “My life is returning to normal. I am able to return to the ‘rough and tumble’ of playing with my son and I am also back at work and signed fit to return to normal duties.”

“My recovery has been tremendous and seems to have been much quicker than it would have been had I had invasive surgery. I am delighted with the way things have turned out.”

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