24th, Nov 2021
Tony Douglas, a recent patient at Kingsbridge Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic kindly gave us a step by step review of his experience. When Tony started to notice his back pain getting worse he knew he had to do something about it. He was referred to our clinic and attended an initial consultation with lead physiotherapist Shea McAleer. Shea had the pleasure of providing his expertise while offering a treatment plan to help Tony on his journey to recovery. Keep reading to find out more!
"Like many men I have had back pain to some extent for years; the ache the next day after playing football during cold winters, the odd strain caused by lifting weights at the gym to impress rather than what is sensible and healthy, doing heavy work around the garden without asking for help - I think many people can relate to those experiences. You simply take a hot bath and rub on some Deep Heat to ease things and move on with life. However, from time to time something happens that no amount of hot baths and rubs is ever going to fix. If you are reading this then you may be in that situation now.
I consider myself to be a pretty active and relatively healthy person. I get a well-man MOT with the GP every few years to check my heart health, bloods etc. I’ve tried to look after my fitness throughout the years but never been obsessive about it. I’ve enjoyed playing football, practising yoga and running to maintain my weight and exercising reduces the guilt feelings brought on when my weekends are excessive. I am in my early 50’s now but still feeling good - until recently.
I was getting the bathroom renovated and had a stone bath delivered. Of course, this was left on a pallet at the front of the house. It needed to come inside. There was no way I was going to be able to shift it myself so thought I’ll call my neighbours son whose hobby happens to be Olympic Power Lifting. As soon as I got down and took the weight of the bath I felt a pain in the lower back. The bath still had to come into the house so I managed to get it into the hall. I knew that something was not right and as the day progressed my back started to lock up and my mobility was limited. Each movement was excruciating. I had limited sleep and a family member recommended a chiropractor and I made an appointment. Two days later I was on the chiropractors couch and 5 minutes after that, with a couple of pulls, pushes and cracks of the spine I was off the table and out the door. I actually did feel better and over the next few days things improved and I was able to get on with life.
In hindsight it was only covering up a serious issue, perhaps I even put myself at greater risk by taking that approach. All was well until a few months later when I had been in the garden doing some work. Interestingly, I had no sensation that I had hurt my back, no sharp pain, no attempt to lift something that I couldn’t and no restriction apart from the normal aches and pains that I associate with age. This time the pain and spasms in my back seemed to come on over a period of hours. I noticed that when I was sitting down that I struggled to stand up straight again. If you have back pain and weakness you will probably use your hands on your upper thighs or knees to push yourself up to stand up straight. As the evening progressed the restriction and pain increased and by the time I was going to bed I was on medication and my back was clearly out of shape.
I had a disturbed night of sleep and the next morning I could not get out of bed. I had to roll out on to the floor, much to the amusement of my wife. I was using the bed and furniture to pull myself upright. I had no strength to support my body when leaning over the sink to have a shave and rinse my face. I was lying on the bed to pull my knees up to my chest so that I could put my socks on, by this stage the wife was in tears laughing. So much for compassion. Did I do anything about it? No. I had no “episode” of putting my back out so this time so I tried to do some stretching, walking and just get on with things. It didn’t get any better and each time I had been static for a while my back just seemed to lock up and go into spasm - sitting in the car, in the office, watching TV, sleeping - I dreaded having to get up again as the pain was agonising."
"I realised that something had to be done when I pulled into a petrol station and after taking 2 minutes to get out of the car I was approached by a kindly driver who asked if I needed assistance. I never thought I would be in the position to need assistance at my age but this stranger could clearly see I needed help."
I am lucky to have private medical insurance and I was referred to Kingsbridge Hospital who organised an appointment for me in their Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic with Shea McAleer. The appointment was made for the next day. The Clinic is based within Queens Physical Education Centre and there is a dedicated area that has top of the range equipment and a number of treatment rooms. I admit that I was slightly worried that I would be out of place and considered a bit of a moaner, I’m no sportsman after all, but I didn’t need to worry as Shea greeted me warmly and I could tell that he was concerned for my wellbeing and took me seriously. He took the time to ask questions about my overall medical history, my specific symptoms and issue, how it was impacting me and then he completed a physical assessment. This assessment was thorough. Shea asked me to complete some minor bends and movements to assess my mobility and identify the issues. I felt reassured that I was in good hands and as he completed his assessment he told me his thoughts and kept me informed.
He carried out a technique called “needling” that involved inserting needles similar to those used in acupuncture into the muscles that had spasmed. Although painful there was no doubt that this, combined with sports massage made me feel better that day. Shea put together a comprehensive programme of exercises for me to take away to build strength and mobility. He demonstrated each exercise and asked me to practice so that he could check my technique. We agreed to meet weekly initially and then every few weeks. Shea checked progress and enhanced my programme when needed so that I didn’t plateau and continued to make progress.
One interesting element to the programme is that Shea always seemed to have an exercise that was challenging and it made me realise that throughout my life, even though I was active, I had many areas that were weak. Failing to build proper strength, (along with brute stupidity), probably meant that I was always destined to get to the stage where a significant back injury would occur. The exercises always seemed to target a weakness in my body, a weakness that I didn’t even realise I had until I tried to do the exercise."
"It may seem like a cliché but prevention is definitely better than cure and if you are reading this and experiencing those aches and pains that don’t really stop you from doing what you need to do but are always there - perhaps you may wish to get expert advice before things get worse."
"My journey to recovery was not always smooth. A few weeks into the programme I had a set-back and this is when the resources available to Shea as part of the Kingsbridge hospital came into play. He recommended an appointment with consultant Mr Mano Shanmuganathan. Once again an appointment was made very quickly. During the consultation a MRI was recommended and I had it within the hour and results straight away. “L5-S1: There is central disc protrusion…occupying almost 2/3 of the…spinal canal…significant root crowding….significant mass effect”. The scan images were shocking when I saw them.
Shea put my mind to rest. I had a fear that my back could go at any time, that I was always going to have back pain and that my life would never be the same. I felt anxiety but Shea was confident and something he stated has stuck with me ever since, “you don’t have to accept that”. I trusted his programme and his expertise. I saw improvements and my anxiety reduced and my optimism grew. It has been hard work but Shea has kept me on the right path. I’m still doing the various elements of the programme and although I’m taking nothing for granted I actually feel stronger now than I have done for years. Thank you Shea and thank you Kingsbridge." - Tony Douglas
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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
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