Actress Jennifer Grey, who won the ABC dancing competition last month, underwent surgery last week to repair a ruptured disc in her back, suffered on the first night of Dancing's two-night finale.
Dr. Robert S. Bray Jr. removed "a huge fragment" from Grey's back during the operation. The procedure was a success, and Grey, 50, is recuperating but feeling great.
"I'm still recovering at home. I have to rest a bit more, but I feel great – completely pain free," she tells PEOPLE exclusively.
Bray, who performed the operation at the D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif., says Grey "can go back to her family, pilates, dancing – just about anything she wants to do."
On Nov. 21, the first night of Dancing's finale, Grey felt pain in her lower back. By the next morning, "she was in tears. She absolutely could not move," Bray says. "Pain was shooting down her leg."
An MRI revealed that the Dirty Dancing star had a ruptured disc "greater than one centimeter," explains Bray, who treated the pain with steroids. "She felt better and asked if she could get to the show. She asked me, 'Is it safe? Am I going go damage myself?' I said, 'No, if you want to, you can try.' "
Grey did more than try. She and her pro partner, Derek Hough, wowed the judges and the nation, and took home the season-11 title and the mirror-ball trophy.
For the average patient with a rupture as severe as Grey's, Bray says he would recommend "three to four days of bed rest, not dancing a waltz and a cha cha. But with Jennifer, when she sets her mind to something, there's no stopping her."