Jayne Torvill health: Dancing on Ice star was in ‘absolute agony’ due to ‘constant pain’

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The current series of Dancing On Ice (DOI) is the 14th since first airing in 2006, but back when the Olympic gold medallist was filming for the seventh series, she started to notice a pain in her lower back and shooting pains in her leg. She initially ignored the pain as she thought it was triggered by the “adventurous” routines that her and skating partner Christopher Dean were performing on the ice. However, Torvill quickly realised that the pain she was in was unbearable.

Speaking to The Mirror about the condition back in 2014, Torvill said: “In January 2012, I started the seventh series of Dancing On Ice and began to get chronic pain in my lower back and shooting pains in my leg.

“We had started working on a routine where I had to repeat an arched position, so I thought that triggered the pain.

“The Dancing On Ice physio, who I have worked with for years, thought the pain could be due to general wear and tear, so I soldiered on for a few weeks.

“But the pain became so chronic that I was in absolute agony, even after a night’s sleep. Experiencing severe muscle spasms in my lower back meant I was literally crawling out of bed every morning.

“Even getting to the studio for rehearsals was a struggle and I had to get up half an hour earlier than normal as I couldn’t just leap out of bed and get dressed.

“It took me a good five minutes to get upright and I couldn’t even lift my leg to get it into my trousers or my shoe. It was ridiculous.”

With the pain causing severe disruption to her everyday life and work schedule, Torvill was advised to take anti-inflammatories and a painkiller at night in order to help her sleep.

However, when she started to “feel out of it” due to the tranquillisation effects of the medication, her doctor recommended that she go for an MRI scan instead.

“At a private hospital in Birmingham, I met my specialist Spencer Harland, a consultant spinal neurosurgeon, who showed me the results of the scan and said I had a lumbar synovial cyst on the left side of my lower back,” Torvill explained.

“I had no idea what it was, but I was told that they develop within the facet joints as the cartilage wears away. Excess fluid is produced within the joint and this forms a cyst.

“It was pea-sized and under the skin, so I would never have known about it if it weren’t for the scan.”

Spine Health, a medical website dedicated to the spine, explains that a synovial cyst is a relatively uncommon cause of lower back pain. It is caused by a fluid-filled sac developing as a result of degeneration in the spine.

This sac then creates pressure inside the spinal canal, which can give a patient all types of symptoms. As the condition is caused by degeneration (deterioration over time), it is typically only seen in patients over the age of 45, the most common are patients older than 65.

Johns Hopkins Medicine goes further to explain that depending on the size and location of the cyst, possible symptoms that can occur include:

  • Backache
  • Radicular (“pinched nerve”) pain on one or both sides
  • Neurogenic claudication (pain or weakness due to compressed nerves)
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty moving
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Paralysis (very rare)
  • Change in bowel or bladder function.

Speaking about how she tried to cope with the pain of her cyst, Torvill added: “Having constant pain is incredibly tiring and, behind the scenes, I was really struggling. You almost feel depressed because the pain is there all the time.”

Not only did the star manage to get through filming the rest of the 2012 series of Dancing On Ice, she also battled on and performed in the live UK tour (with the help of a few steroid injections). But as soon as this was over, she was “whisked” away to hospital to have the cyst removed.

Spine Health explains that the most common kinds of spine surgery for synovial cysts can either be decompression or decompression with a spine fusion (fusing the joint), which tends to be the most reliable.

Fusing the joint stops all the motion at that level of the spine, and without any motion the cyst cannot return. Talking about the success of her own surgery, Torvill added: “After the operation, my consultant told me everything had gone well and that the cyst had been removed successfully.

“I was also given some exercises to do. They were basic and involved things like calf-stretching, but they were essential to getting my left leg back to full strength. The nerve pain had weakened my muscles and I was walking very slowly.

“Over the next three months, I had intensive rehabilitation. I wasn’t allowed to drive for a month in case I had to brake suddenly and it jolted my back.”

Alternative non-surgical treatment options for synovial cysts in the lumbar spine include:

  • Observation and activity modifications
  • General non-surgical treatments for pain relief
  • Injections.

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