Patient Stories

David J. Novak, MD

Initially, Vicki ignored the nagging pain in her left arm. After 30 years of teaching fitness classes, she was used to working through injury. But the pain worsened and soon every movement became agonizing. “I couldn’t lift my arm. I couldn’t do any activity. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was miserable,” she says.

Her family doctor referred her to David Novak, MD, at OrthoVirginia, where an MRI revealed an 80% tear in her left rotator cuff. Dr. Novak recommended she have an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. This surgery is considered when pain, especially night pain, and weakness interfere with activity and cannot be controlled by conservative treatment such as physical therapy, NSAIDS and cortisone injections. It’s also a good option for patients such as Vicki, who are highly motivated to return to a very active lifestyle.

In this outpatient procedure, the surgeon inserts a small camera called an arthroscope, and works with miniature instruments while looking at the rotator cuff on a monitor. The minimally invasive surgery offers many advantages to patients including smaller incisions, less muscle and tissue trauma, and less pain and bleeding.

After her successful surgery, Vicki began the long, challenging process of recovery. Even though people warned her it would be difficult, she thought she’d be fine because she was an athlete and fitness instructor. Instead, she says, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was truly out of commission for the first time in my life.”

She spent four weeks in rehab, performing passive range of motion exercises just to move her arm. As her strength and function gradually improved, she progressed to physical therapy and began lifting light weights again at six months. Eventually she was able to regain full motion and strength, and is back to all her pre-injury activities, teaching strength, spinning, core conditioning and water aerobics classes at Lifetime Fitness in Centreville.

Vicki recommends Dr. Novak to others and returned to him for knee surgery in July. “I had complete trust in him from the moment I met him,” she says. “He was very thorough and explained everything carefully. I was in such bad shape when I went to see him and my recovery was so tough, I never thought I’d be completely okay again. I feel he performed a miracle to get me back to 100%.”