For years, Carson Daly needed to treat his chronic low back pain, but he couldn’t bring himself to get an MRI test, a crucial first step.
The TODAY co-host shared Monday that the main reason for his reluctance was his generalized anxiety disorder, which caused him to fear the hermetically sealed tube typically used to perform MRIs. Carson has spoken of his mental struggles with anxiety, but this shows how the condition has affected his physical health as well.
“For years, I was too afraid to get an MRI because of my panic attacks because it’s so claustrophobic,” she said. “So I put all of this off for years.”
He said that he finally discovered a different type of MRI in which the patient is standing up instead of lying down. He allowed her to get a much-needed test, leading to a procedure that he hopes will finally be a breakthrough after years of back pain caused by a snowmobile accident in 1997.
Carson, 48, shared her story on Monday TODAY about undergoing a noninvasive procedure called Intracept to treat pain caused by a T12 compression fracture she suffered in her back while working for MTV in Aspen, Colorado 25 years ago.
Dr. Kiran Patel, director of neurosurgical pain at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, showed the MRI on TODAY, noting that it clearly showed bone changes in the affected area of Carson’s back that They caused pain.
The Intracept procedure involved Patel with a probe that heats the nerve root in the area causing pain to prevent the nerve from sending signals to the spinal cord and then to the brain. Patel compared ablation, a medical procedure in which a body part or tissue or its function is removed or destroyed by heat or another method, to turning off notifications on your cell phone.
Patel also clarified that the Intracept procedure is for patients with vertebrogenic back pain, which means that the bones of the lower back are causing the pain. The procedure is also for patients who have had more than six months of pain and failed to find any relief with other methods of pain control.
Carson had become frustrated after trying physical therapy, sports massage, yoga and Pilates for 25 years with no significant reduction in his back pain. He has also had to modify his workouts and trainings in Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts due to his ongoing back problems.
“I’ve tried everything, so this procedure really is considered my Hail Mary,” he said. “It’s like the last thing I could possibly do to get relief because, honestly, nothing really worked.”
Regular pain has also taken its toll at home.
“It has affected my interaction with my family,” Carson said. “One thing I love to do is get on the ground and let them jump on me and roll around and play, and that’s what I can’t do, especially with Goldie, my 2-year-old daughter.”
Patel made a baby aspirin-sized incision in Carson’s back during an hour-long procedure that left him in only a little pain.
He demonstrated TODAY Monday how he is able to move in positions that used to cause sharp pain instantly. She is able to bend over as if she were about to hit a golf ball, which she said used to be a position that caused her constant pain.
“It’s not a cure-all, but I’m glad I did it,” he said.
“I’m increasing physical activity now,” he continued. “It gives you hope. If you have back pain, you’re in pain. You don’t even realize you’re wearing it, constantly moaning.”
He shared how he was able to play “base running” with his kids at a family barbecue on Sunday, an activity he always had to beg for. But this time, when her children asked her if she wanted to play, she didn’t hesitate.
“I looked at them and said, ‘You’re absolutely right, I’ll do it,'” he said with a laugh. “And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about anything else for me.”
While Carson is celebrating what he hopes will be a major change in his health, there has been a downside to the procedure.
“Well, I got away with it for years without having to do the dishes,” she joked. “So now I’m a little worried that (my wife) Siri will put me back in the kitchen because I’m running out of excuses.”
He also offered advice to anyone with chronic back pain and anxiety: ask your health care provider if you’re a candidate for the Intracept procedure, and know that a permanent MRI option is available at some medical centers.