A 35-year-old male had a 15-year history of back pain. A former Division 1 college soccer player, he had a long history of “tweaking” his back and chronic low back pain. Recently, It had become so severe it was affecting his ability to do everyday activities. His previous treatments included brief stints of physical therapy but no long-term program. A recent MRI revealed two levels of disc herniation and early degeneration of the discs. At the time he was referred to me, he had stopped all physical activity due to increasing pain. Upon evaluation, he had no spinal mobility, severely decreased hip flexibility and was tentative in all his movements.
His goal was to perform everyday activities with decreased pain and learn a more intense, long-term back care exercise program for strengthening. He also wanted to return to working out for fitness and playing golf without hurting his back.
We began primarily hands-on techniques to decrease pain and get his spine in better alignment. Once he was out of the acute pain phase, we were able to start non-rigorous abdominal and low back strengthening as well as a thorough hip flexibility program. This took several months as we battled between episodes of acute pain during which he had to back off all his exercises and then resume when he was ready. Previously, he would not resume exercise for his back care after a pain episode for fear that it would cause further flare-ups or not help at all. This created a perfect storm for more pain and dysfunction. We were able to work through these episodes and continue to advance him during the “good” phases so that if he did have an acute flare-up he recovered more quickly and continued to improve his spinal mobility.
After weekly sessions over several months the patient now has an 85-90% improvement in his chronic pain. He has been able to return to activities such as skiing and golf without “throwing his back out.” He attends weekly Pilates sessions in which he is able to participate in an intermediate level workout without pain. He has a comprehensive advanced home program that he does on his own and then follows up with PT to advance when he is ready. He is experiencing a much better quality of life and is on the road to a long-term healthy spine.