Ronald Kunkel
Living Pain-Free after Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery


Ronald Kunkel’s job as a contractor demanded grueling physical labor which eventually took its toll on his back.

“I was in construction my whole life and worked hard and probably lifted stuff I shouldn’t have,” he says. “I never thought about my back at the time, but I’m sure that’s how I ruined it.”

Ronald, 71, went to several different doctors and chiropractors and got injections, epidurals and therapy but “nothing relieved the pain until I came to Dr. Kim,” he says.

Although Ronald was hesitant to have spinal surgery, he’s very happy he chose the minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) – a type of spinal fusion used to stabilize the spine by restoring disc height and fusing vertebrae together, which enhances spinal stability and alleviates nerve compression.

“Soon after I woke up from surgery I was able to walk to the end of the hall without a walker – and without any pain,” Ronald says. “I came to the hospital on Friday morning and went home Saturday afternoon. It was a miracle.”

“Minimally invasive TLIF surgery is the same as traditional surgery but the incision is made in a way that decreases damage to the surrounding soft tissue and muscle,” says Choll Kim, M.D., one of several orthopedic and spine surgeons affiliated with Palomar Health. “We make two small incisions instead of one big incision. All of this means less pain and faster recovery for the patient.”

Today, Ronald is pain-free and partially retired. He traded in his hard-core construction work for handyman jobs for neighbors and friends. His goal is to “always take care of my back.”

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