Todd Howle

Southside, AL

Conditions + Treatments

Medical Icon Spine Injury/Condition

I was involved in a car accident when I was 15 years old. The accident shifted the top part of my spine up, causing my chest to bow out and putting a lot of pressure on my lower spine.

Over the years, I went to a number of chiropractors for adjustments, and saw doctors to try steroid shots and anti-inflammatories. Nothing ever worked.

The pain only got worse with age. By the time I had entered my 50's, I was going to the chiropractor three times a week and taking muscle relaxers on a regular basis.  I knew I couldn’t keep up this routine and that it wasn’t ever going to be a permanent fix to my problems, so I saw my primary care physician to discuss other options. He took x-rays and did an MRI, then referred me to Dr. Steven Nichols, an orthopaedic surgeon spine specialist at Andrews Sports Medicine.

During my first visit with Dr. Nichols, he spent nearly an hour and a half talking with me about my option to have my L4 and L5 discs replaced and my spine surgically realigned. He answered every question I had with incredible detail. I vividly remember two things he said to me: 1) He told me routinely performs these two particular surgeries - ALIF & XLIF - all the time 2) He expected me to feel much better after the surgery.

Dr. Nichols’ confidence is exactly what I needed. Right after that conversation, I scheduled my pre-op appointment for March 9, 2020 and my surgeries for March 16 and 17, 2020. In the operations they used six screws and two rods to align my spine and put in two plates to replace my L4 and L5 discs.

I went home from St. Vincent’s on March 19, just two days post-op. On March 22, I went outside and walked around my yard with a cane. My watch tracked my steps and said I had walked almost seven miles. The fact that I was able to walk for so long with such little pain a week after surgery is proof of the quality of care Dr. Nichols provides.

Not only did the surgeries alleviate the pressure on my lower spine, but they also fixed the barrel shape of my chest. I lost seven inches in my chest circumference.

I manage a travel center for Pilot Oil Company. At my job, I’m on my feet for at least eight hours every day, sometimes more. I’m always up moving and physically working, whether I’m climbing ladders or lifting small refrigerators and cases of drinks. I was only out from work for five weeks, and now I’m back and so much better than before.

Before my surgery, I would have to bend to lift anything; now I can squat down and use my legs to lift the weight. All my life I’ve never been able to do that, but I can now and it’s amazing.

My experience with Andrews has been nothing short of phenomenal. Every time I see Dr. Nichols, I just want to hug his neck and tell him how much he changed my life. For nearly 40 years, I suffered from my back problems and with his help, I feel like a new person.