Fifty-seven-year-old Anthony Mitchell enjoys taking his daily walks.

They weren't always daily. They weren't always enjoyable.

What You Need To Know

  • Anthony Mitchell said he dealt with excruciating pain for years

  • He was diagnosed with sacroiliac joint disease

  • Dr. Thomas B. Freeman is the first in the country to perform a new procedure to help eliminate pain like Mitchell's

  • More Health headlines

"I was having problems walking. I was falling," said Mitchell as he showed a scar on his right arm.

Until recently, Mitchell lived with excruciating pain.

"On a scale of one to 10, it was 100," said Mitchell. "I dealt with that on a day-to-day basis, even with taking pain medicines."

The source of that pain went undiagnosed for more than 15 years. The pain was so devastating, Mitchell sayshe lost hope.

"I’ve been in dark places on numerous occasions, thinking about killing myself,” he admitted.

“When you’re a man and you provide for your family, whether it be spiritually, financially or emotionally, and you're not able to do either one because you’re not up to par.”

Hope was renewed when Dr. Thomas B. Freeman, a Neurosurgeon at Tampa General Hospital had a diagnosis — sacroiliac joint disease.

"The purpose of the SI joint is to deliver energy from the spine to the sacrum to the pelvis to the hip," explained Dr. Freeman. "The sacroiliac joint is the biggest joint in the body. It’s surprising that most people have never even heard of it, until they have a problem with it," said Dr. Freeman.

"It’s an untreated problem. Nationally, it’s an epidemic."

Dr. Freeman, also a Professor of Neurosurgery at USF Health, says 20% of back pain is actually SI joint pain, and it often goes misdiagnosed.

Mitchell says he lost his job of almost 20 years over it and is still working to put his life back together.

Dr. Freeman is the first in the country to perform a new procedure to help eliminate pain like Mitchell's.

Neurovascular Anticipating Distraction Interference Arthrodesis — or NADIA procedure — is performed through a small incision in the back. A small, threaded cage the size of a corkscrew is inserted to encourage bone growth.

"So there’s both a bone fusion and a fusion through the device, plus the device has a special surface treatment, so the bone fuses to the device itself," explained Dr. Freeman.

Mitchell was the first to have the procedure, and follow-up visits have been positive.

"It’s very rare to have a robust fusion like this that quickly,” said Dr. Freeman.

"In hearing that, I kinda teared up, it’s emotional for me," said Mitchell.

It's that emotion that keeps Mitchell moving.

"I can walk, I don’t have to worry about falling," said Mitchell. "I have no pain, not in this left leg at all.”

Mitchell says he's pain-free in that left leg for the first time in more than 15 years.

"It’s given me my life back," says Mitchell. "For a man to just lose everything about himself and knowing that I’ll have all of that back now."

Dr. Freeman says SI joint pain is 20% of all back pain and often goes misdiagnosed.

He says some symptoms of SI joint pain include:

  • Sitting with one buttock elevated
  • Buttocks pain is worse when sitting down
  • Pain is worse when: in motion going from sitting to standing, walking up stairs, walking up an incline, lying on same side, rolling over in bed, leaning over; Feels better when seated in a recliner