I’d like to share a story about a woman with whom I recently worked who was struggling with severe back pain. We will call her Susan. Susan was diagnosed with herniated discs (disc bulges) as well as spondylolisthesis (vertebrae slipping on each other). She had excellent medical care with anti-inflammatories, pain management and injections. Yet she was exhibiting progressive numbness and weakness in her foot and had changes in her walking as a result.
Susan was willing to explore many avenues to help her get back to her golf game. She researched a variety of therapies, spoke with professional practitioners, and determined that an integrative approach could be the quickest and most effective means of returning to the game she loved.
Her course of physical therapy included manual therapy to relax muscle spasms. Gentle mobilizations and muscle energy techniques helped to correct some of the compensatory changes in her pelvic and spinal alignment. Once her alignment improved, there was less pressure on her discs. This, along with lumbar traction, helped to reduce the disc bulges and return the discs to normal positioning. She quickly noticed improvements in her foot strength and walking.
During the course of treatment, Susan was educated by a golf rehab professional in modifications to her golf swing. She became more aware of her posture and worked to increase her ability to activate and sustain her abdominal muscle strength during activity. This took pressure off the discs as well. Susan was instructed in an exercise program to perform at home, as well as in the pool. She was able to provide traction to herself by hanging with a pool noodle under her arms, and walked in the pool for exercise.
Susan’s next treatment modality is acupuncture. The National Institutes of Health state that “stimulating specific acupuncture points corrects imbalances in the flow of qi (or energy) through channels known as meridians.” Acupuncture has long been used as a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. Additionally, Susan is learning about supplements that can help her system fight inflammation and promote healing.
Being proactive and using the resources around you is critical to improving your personal health. Susan knew that more than medicine was needed. Adding treatment from multiple disciplines helped her to recover more quickly. She sought expert advice in the following areas:
- Postural Education
- Massage and manual work
- Aquatic therapy
- Ergonomic assessment and changes to her work environment
- Modifications to her golf swing by a golf professional
- Natural supplements
It’s important to note that all of this was done under the supervision of qualified practitioners who worked together on her recovery. It required professional skills and coordination to prevent things from getting worse and to promote healing. This collaborative approach also helped mitigate potential long-term damage to her spinal nerves, muscles, and overall system, and allowed Susan to return to enjoying her active life.
Stacy Hennis is a physical therapist with New Beginning Physical Therapy and can be reached at 760-218-9961 or online at NewBeginningPT.com.