180-degree turnaround for darts player after sciatica surgery

Written by: Mr Iqroop Chopra
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Being pain-free is just the start of the journey for patients that undergo spinal surgery for sciatica. Unlocking the possibilities that come along with it, is the exciting part - and many patients make the most of it in different ways once they have recovered.


David Cheal, a league darts player and IT specialist from Barry, South Wales, is one of those people. He became an international tournament winner in Paris, just six months after a microscopic procedure by leading consultant spinal neurosurgeon Mr Iqroop Chopra.


Treated at both Nuffield Health Cardiff Bay and The Vale Hospital, where Mr Chopra operates two of his private clinics, Mr Cheal was experiencing symptoms that left him in a lot of pain. Standing still for a couple of minutes would trigger his sciatica in his left leg, causing the muscles to tighten and feel numbness in the leg and toes. And once this happened, it meant everyday things like boiling a kettle, waiting for the iron to heat up and his passion, playing darts, were painful struggles rather than easy or enjoyable.


David Cheal and smiling man holding international darts trophy


Relieving spinal pressure via surgery

Mr Cheal had several consultations, X-rays and MRIs as well as nerve-blocking injections and physio after being referred to Mr Chopra. Eventually, in mid-December 2017, he had a laminectomy, which is the surgical procedure that involves removal of part or all of the vertebral bone with the aim to ease pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Mr Cheal also had herniated disc material removed from the lower back, called a discectomy, which also relieves tension on the spine.


Reflecting on his recovery, he said: "My back was very painful to touch for about 10 days. Six weeks later, I was back at work, with my mobility improving from mid-January."



Successful results

Mr Cheal gave a sparkling review of the service he received by the whole treatment team, especially Mr Chopra: "He and every member of staff that I met at the Nuffield Health hospitals were very good to me.


"My consultant is a very friendly, kind and knowledgeable man who did his upmost to keep me informed from my very first visit to my post-op appointment in early January 2018."


When it came to the operation's success, he said: "I would thoroughly recommend this procedure. I returned to darts in late February and was thrilled with the win, just three months later!"


Focus on hand about to throw a dart at a darts board in a bar or pub


Recognising when to get sciatica treatment

Mr Chopra observed how the deterioration of Mr Cheal's sciatic condition, which was initially managed with physiotherapy, pain killers and non-invasive injections, became so detrimental to his quality of life that led to the final - yet successful - option of surgery.


"The success rate of such non-surgical intervention is high and helps avoid spinal operations. However, where leg pain symptoms are resistant to such treatment or there is recurrence of symptoms, minimally-invasive surgical treatment offers good results."


He added that anyone experiencing severe sciatica symptoms and considering surgery should seek assistance as soon as possible.    


"In Mr Cheal's case, microscopic decompression of the nerve helped his quick recovery. Early identification of the change in symptoms from mechanical back pain to radiating leg pain is vital. Also, where this change occurs in neck and arm pain, needs to be acted upon to avoid loss of leg function."



If you're considering going ahead with spinal surgery for sciatica, Mr Chopra can provide expert service. Visit his Top Doctors profile to make an appointment with him at your convenience.

By Mr Iqroop Chopra

Mr Iqroop Chopra is a leading consultant spinal neurosurgeon based in Cardiff. His areas of expertise lie in non-operative and operative management of spinal conditions such as spinal tumours and slipped discs. He also specialises in sciatica (leg pain), neck and back pain, arm pain and minimally invasive surgery.

Mr Chopra is a spinal fellowship-trained neurosurgeon and has been practising full-time as a consultant spinal neurosurgeon at Cardiff and Vale Hospital since 2007. In addition, he also has practising privileges at Nuffield Vale Clinic & Hospital and Spire Cardiff Hospital. Mr Chopra trained in London at tertiary neurosurgical and orthopaedic hospitals and is qualified to treat spinal problems from both an orthopaedic and a neurosurgical perspective, giving him a unique approach in treating the entire spectrum of spinal conditions. In order to offer the best and most effective treatment for each and every one of his patients, Mr Chopra also works closely with radiologists, physiotherapists and pain management specialists. 

Mr Chopra has a strong interest in teaching and training, and in role-modelling strong organisational skills.  For the last few years, has been convenor of Spinal revision course and also actively involved in teaching at the Cardiff University as an honorary lecturer. He has previously been Chair, Education and Training, British Association of Spinal Surgeons (BASS) for two years. At present, he is the Clinical lead for Spinal Services at Cardiff & Vale NHS trust.

Over the past five years, Mr Chopra has also been proactively working with SpineAid; a charity involved in treating spinal deformities in children and young adults in India. This passion grew out of a desire to give back to the system and help to treat neurosurgical anomalies in deserving patients with spinal deformities who cannot afford to pay for their own surgery. Consequently, he is now working to establish medical centres in India that can offer surgery to these patients.

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