Taking Back Your Back
The story of a young man determined to relieve his pain
What do jiu-jitsu, drumming, and computer programming all have in common? They are hobbies that belong to Johnny, a 22-year old who came to see us after more than 18 months of agony and over 60 unsuccessful visits to a physical therapist. After “recovering” from a soccer-related disk injury in his teens, Johnny thought back pain was in his rear-view mirror.
Five years after his initial back injury, Johnny was living an active life. He had found his passion in jiu-jitsu, but training hard and poor posture during hours of drumming and computer gaming was taking a toll on his back. What started as an aching inconvenience became full-blown agony. He was struggling to tie his shoes in the morning, and couldn’t even consider traveling for gigs.
Then it got ugly with shooting electricity and numbness in his leg and calf. So he did what most of us would do and consulted the world wide web. Jumping from website to website, Johnny struggled to find any concrete answer for his pain. However, when the term “sciatica” continued to pop up, it seemed as if this was the answer. Desperate, Johnny tried to follow DIY treatments like stretching, exercises, and avoiding other things that he read could worsen sciatica.
“Living in pain was such a normal part of me.”
With no luck finding relief from advice online, Johnny consulted an M.D. specialist. After briefly evaluating Johnny the specialist had no diagnosis but did prescribe ‘rest’. The specialist also allowed Johnny to continue training and even permitted him to try out for his jiu-jitsu promotion later that week. While doing some light training at the gym and ‘taking it easy’ as suggested, Johnny hit another snag. His sparring partner pulled on his back, putting him in excruciating pain. “I felt something sharp,” Johnny recalls, gesturing to his low back, “like someone had taken a knife and stabbed me.”
Johnny goes on to describe the moment he lost strength in his leg, “As I’m walking back to my car, this warm feeling starts in my calf. The next morning, I was walking into work and as I was trying to walk…my right calf just wouldn’t work…I couldn’t push off it anymore.”
For the next ten months, Johnny compromised his happiness to keep his pain at bay. He gave up mixed martial arts and turned down well-paying music gigs to avoid sitting for long periods. Reducing his activity reduced the pain, which he believed meant he was doing better. The reality is, he stopped loading the problem, but the problem itself had not been resolved. Despite this, Johnny described himself as feeling “pretty great.” When someone with chronic pain says living a sedentary, albeit less painful, lifestyle feels “pretty great,” it’s heartbreaking.
With 18 months of suffering under his belt, every morning began the painful battle and any hope of remaining active was being crushed. For Johnny, getting out of bed was the biggest hurdle of all, with every movement being calculated and careful. Looking back, Johnny had known he wasn’t getting better while he was attending physical therapy. “It was comforting just doing something physical that may be helping.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping. All the physical therapist could advise was 8 more months of rest.
“I’ve never had anything like that before. I saw results today.”
Thankfully, a friend referred Johnny to Brady Back Institute. He states, “I didn’t have any expectations when I came here. I just thought, ‘I’ll do whatever, I don’t have anything to lose.’ Living in pain was such a normal part of me.” After the very first treatment, Johnny was drumming to a different beat. “I’ve never had anything like that before.” He says, beaming about his first visit, “I saw results today.” By his third visit, Johnny was looking forward to returning to life before pain, something he never even thought possible. On his sixth visit, Johnny reported feeling over 50% better. Progressing through treatment, he was moving better and his body was beginning to heal.
On his fourteenth and final visit, Johnny’s pain was eliminated. Reflecting on the experience he had with Brady Back Institute, Johnny says “It’s comforting to know what’s going on with my body and having a plan to fix it. This isn’t like any physical therapy I’ve done. This is actually going to the problem and fixing things. Now, looking back, I wish I would have taken charge and found if there’s a better option than just going to a physical therapist forever.”
At Brady Back Institute, every one of our patients is like Johnny: a person in pain with a story. Whether you’ve had pain for two or twenty years, or if other providers have left you with more questions than answers, we can help you. If back pain is holding you back from doing what you love to do, or just what you need to do, know there is another option.
-Written by Pearl Carter