Active Relief for Back Pain
Three out of every four people will experience back problems at some point during their lifetimes. And for 90 percent of those who do, the pain can be controlled and treated with conservative non-invasive therapy. Palos Community Hospital is proud to be home to three McKenzie-trained physical therapists who have been instrumental in developing a unique and active approach to treating acute back pain. The goal: to provide immediate relief the same day you call us, and then to get you back on your feet as quickly and safely as possible while also providing the tools you need to self-manage your pain today and in the future.
Tinley Park-resident Noreen Horan is one of the 80 percent who has been living with back pain for more than half her life. At age 48, Noreen currently serves as manager of Communications at Palos Community Hospital, where she has been employed for 21 years. Despite her immediate access to Palos’ vast network of healthcare services, Noreen has been living with undiagnosed and untreated back pain for nearly 25 years. “The pain comes and goes,” she says, “and it can be brought on by simply moving the wrong way. But generally, it’s more annoying than debilitating.” This past February, Noreen’s back pain suddenly became debilitating. “My father has Parkinson’s disease, and I was helping him put on his shoes,” Noreen explains. “I was literally lifting his leg to put his foot into the shoe when the pain hit. It took my breath away. I couldn’t move. I was completely debilitated.”
Noreen’s pain struck on a Friday, and she was laid up all weekend. By Monday, she was still having trouble walking. Her gait was crooked, and she could not stand up straight, so she finally decided to seek help.
“The pain was pretty intense, making walking and daily functions very difficult,” says Noreen. “Dr. Mochizuki examined me and said he wanted to send me immediately to physical therapy. I thought, ‘No, no, no. No one can touch me when I’m in this much pain.’ Dr. Mochizuki said, ‘Trust me,’ and he was right. They really know what they’re doing.”
“The approach we use gives therapists a sense of whether the patient will respond successfully to conservative care in a very short period of time, in just four to six sessions as opposed to months,” explains Palos Community Hospital Physiatrist Ron Mochizuki, M.D. “That speeds up the treatment process to resolution of pain or to another treatment approach. Because we’re using a medical model, we can rule out more serious problems at the same time, and if it turns out the patient needs imaging or surgery, we can get that process started much faster as well.”
A series of carefully administered stretches and exercises were able to provide Noreen with enough pain relief that she felt encouraged. She returned for a total of five treatments, and that was all she needed.Today, whenever she feels a twinge in her back, which in the past would signal the start of impending pain, Noreen uses the exercises she learned in treatment to stop the pain before it even gets started.
All it takes is one phone call to Palos Community Hospital’s Physical Therapy department to get things started. You will be scheduled that day to see a physiatrists (a physician who specializes in physical medicine), who will conduct a comprehensive health history and physical exam. Then you will be referred to a physical therapist to begin pain-relieving treatment immediately.
“Part of the evaluation is to determine the source of the pain, whether it’s the spine, arms or legs,” explains Palos Community Hospital McKenzie-trained Physical Therapist Andrew Farrell. “If it’s potentially related to the spine, we can start treatment immediately. Our goal is returning patients to function and then teaching them what they can do to manage their symptoms in the future. In most cases, patients do not need extensive hands-on treatment. They respond to their own self generated movements and forces. That’s what makes our approach unique: We teach patients how to stop their own symptoms.”
“That’s a powerful tool,” Dr. Mochizuki says, “and the great thing is that it’s not passive and it’s not a medication. We completely empower patients to take control of their pain and give them tools they can use for the rest of their lives.”
If conservative treatment fails to relieve your pain, laboratory tests and/or radiological studies may be ordered, and alternative therapies will be considered, including medications and injections. If the physiatrist feels surgery may be an option, patients will be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for consultation. Signs that a back condition may require surgery include loss of or worsening nerve function, new bowel or bladder problems, and failure of conservative treatment.
Designed for people who are experiencing severe back pain or recent onset that limits their ability to walk or stand up straight, or pain that is so severe that they consider missing work or calling a doctor, Palos Community Hospital’s active approach to treating back pain can be highly effective for the vast majority of back pain sufferers. “Part of the victory of our approach is that within just a few sessions, we can get the patient to the right method of treatment, quickly and effectively, without medications, without unnecessary imaging and without invasive procedures,”says Vince Gutierrez, a McKenzie-trained physical therapist at Palos Community Hospital. “The days of going to therapy three times a week for six week are gone. We can teach you what you need to know to control your own pain, and as long as you progress the way we anticipate, we don’t need to see you again until something changes.”
If you are experiencing acute back pain and would like to find relief fast, call Palos Community Hospital’s Physical Therapy department at (708) 923-5050.