Kate’s Back Injury
Dealing with any injury is difficult – it can be overwhelming to deal with lifestyle limitations and pain. This is why I want to share with you the story of a young patient who experienced a back injury, and share the process of how physical therapy helped her recover and regain a normal lifestyle. Kate’s injury is frequently seen in the clinic and her process of how she ended up in PT is not uncommon. Read her story below…
How did you hurt yourself?
I used to be a volleyball player, and about 3 years ago, I did a normal volleyball jump at the gym. I knew instantly that something had gone wrong in my back. The wasn’t bad at first, but within a few days, I couldn’t sit and didn’t want to even leave my bed.
When did you decide to see a doctor?
I saw my primary MD that same week. They thought, with me being so young, it was just a tweak and it would probably self-resolve within a couple weeks. Unfortunately, my back only got worse, so I started physical therapy shortly thereafter.
Have you ever had PT and how was your first session?
I never had PT and didn’t know what to expect. My first session, the PT took a detailed history about my injury. She observed my mobility, limitations, and assessed my skeletal structure. Within 20 minutes of that first visit, she found multiple positions that relieved me from this chronic pain I’d been having for almost a month. I felt immediate relief.
What was your PT session like?
My physical therapist had me do exercises that focused on keeping my back stable while strengthening my core. We started with exercises laying on my back, then progressed to my hands and knees, and eventually in standing. Initially every exercise felt hard, then I got stronger and the pain was more manageable which allowed us to progress to harder exercises. My therapist also did manual therapy on me to help relieve tight muscles or trigger points in addition to addressing any alignment issues. At every session we reviewed my progress and tweaked my home program so I was always working towards my goals.
Did you eventually receive any imaging? What was the official diagnosis?
I actually saw the physical therapist for a whole month before I went in for my MRI. The MRI barely showed anything – just a few millimeters of narrowing around the nerve as it left my spine. My orthopedic doctor said they could do a variety of procedures, but they were all invasive and risked further damaging the nerve. Clearly, I avoided these.
So, how is your back feeling now? Did you find physical therapy successful?
Yes! I’m still doing the exercises my physical therapist had me doing when we met three years ago. I actually went back recently to be re-evaluated and see what other exercises I could be doing to continue to progress. My symptoms have improved enough that I can sit in the car, work out at the gym, and have a normal life again. There are even days when I forget that anything happened to me.
What I learned from my experience is that I should have been doing physical therapy my whole life! I really believe that my injury might never have happened had I been diligent in keeping myself strong and flexible.