JS is no ordinary patient. She’s a doctor herself ‒‒ an equine veterinarian whose patients can be ornery, unpredictable, and even downright dangerous to treat.

She’s also quite the athlete, particularly when it comes to hockey, as anyone born in New England should be. Back in 2010, JS was playing hockey when, out of nowhere, “It felt like somebody had hit me in the neck with a puck,” she says. She wasn’t sure what had happened. She just knew it hurt.

And that the pain just didn’t go away. Worse, the problem in her neck impaired her mobility. That’s bad enough on its own. But it can be absolutely disastrous when your job routinely requires dealing with patients that weigh as much as 1,200 pounds.

JS met Dr. Sandro LaRocca, founder of the New Jersey Neck and Back Institute at 3131 Princeton Pike. Turns out she had a herniated disc. Dr. LaRocca put JS on conservative therapy ‒‒ exercises, physical therapy, and other non-invasive treatments ‒‒ to help. And it worked.

“A year later, I sneezed,” JS says. The sneeze caused a second disc herniation, just below the original, leaving JS with numbness and a burning sensation in her arm. Epidural injections worked, but only for short periods of time. Neither JS nor Dr. LaRocca wanted to do surgery unless it was the only course.

JS endured ‒‒ and tried to work through ‒‒ chronic pain. It was frustrating and, unfortunately, her condition was worsening.

And then she sneezed again. This time the damage (which reaggravated the first disc herniation) was too severe to do anything but operate. But in Dr. LaRocca’s hands, JS improved greatly. And while she no longer plays hockey, she is fully mobile, out of pain, and able to do her job.

“Dr. LaRocca was excellent to work with,” JS says. “And I’m the non-ideal patient. I always think, ‘What can I do to cut corners?’ I was very impressed with his process. There was no rush to surgery.”

But JS appreciated Dr. LaRocca’s straightforward, candid approach, as well as his ear. “He really listened,” she says. “And you want someone on your team who really listens.”

From surgery through post-op through recovery, Dr. LaRocca remained attentive and followed up about her condition, JS says.

Does JS miss the hockey rink? Of course. But ask her if the trade-off for a healthy back without pain is worth it, and she’ll say absolutely.

New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, 3131 Princeton Pike #106, Lawrenceville. 609-896-0020. www.njnbi.com.

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