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Facing fear | Health beat

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The injury happened in a flash. When Britney May bent down to unload her dishwasher, a sharp pain ran through her lower back.

“It felt like someone had stabbed me in the body,” said the 36-year-old. “I’m freezing. I couldn’t straighten up. And this excruciating pain went up and down my sciatic nerve.”

She had had similar episodes of back trauma, with attacks every few years.

But this time, in July, the stakes seemed much higher.

May, of Muskegon, Michigan, had become a new home mom to a little girl who had to be picked up and cared for dozens of times each day.

She went to her family doctor for immediate help. She was given pain medication, muscle relaxants, and an injection of cortisone.

But within a few weeks she pinched her back again – this time she picked the baby up from the floor.

She arranged a personal consultation Elizabeth Harris, PT, Physiotherapist at Spectrum Health.

Harris evaluated May’s pain and took a history of her back pain. She then developed a treatment plan that May could follow with MedBridge, an app that guides her through home exercises.

They continued therapy through virtual visits to alleviate May’s childcare challenges.

May has regained control of the healing process through the appointments and her diligent adherence to the exercises.

She has also developed a new attitude towards her body’s ability to heal.

Kinesophobia: When moving around is scary

Back pain sufferers tend to have long memories of bad memories.

“One of the strongest predictors of future back pain is a history of back pain,” said Harris.

“When an injury repeats itself, people are often frightened – they imagine that this time it will be as bad as last time or worry that it will be worse than ever,” she said. “You can start circling the drain and the fear becomes crippling.”

As in May, the tendency is to freeze. They think that moving as little as possible means less pain.

“We call this fear kinesophobia, which means fear of movement. And it’s important to deal with it right away because moving is the only way to get well, ”said Harris. “We have to show people that just because the pain is real now doesn’t mean it will be there forever.”

To make matters even more complicated, when people with these injuries move they often clumsily try to compensate for it.

“That can lead to a whole host of other problems,” said Harris.

So Harris began by speaking to May about her fear of pain and the beliefs that were limiting her.

“Most patients have these fears,” said Harris. “They think things like, ‘This is going to keep me from being the mother I want to be.’ “This injury could end my career.” Or: ‘My back will hurt forever.’ “

Next, the two of them began working on movement in small, simple steps to remind May’s brain that movement doesn’t always have to be accompanied by pain.

As that got easier, May learned stretches and movements that strengthened her hips and abs. First she practiced it from the safe lying position and then from the standing position.

“From then on, we could turn to the biomechanics of stooping and picking up things,” Harris said.

Relief after a single session

May couldn’t believe how quickly the exercises paid off.

“After the first session, I felt so relieved that I could take care of my daughter with modifications,” she said. “And within four sessions I felt comfortable doing everyday, normal things again.”

In her last virtual session, May worked with Harris to come up with a rescue plan for the next time.

“The chances are good that this type of injury will recur,” said Harris. “So when you know some specific steps – small movements, tiny stretches throughout the day – the experience takes away a lot of the fear.”

May has already learned this lesson.

“Last week I had to move quickly to take something away from the baby and I had back pain,” she said. “My first thought was, ‘Oh no, here it goes again.’ But I didn’t freak out or panic. I said, ‘OK, let’s assess the pain and move on with the plan.’ I was fine within three days. “

Your advice to other mothers? “If something is wrong with your body, get help right away. There are so many tools out there and they don’t take up a lot of time. I can train them all day.

“I don’t always have 20 minutes to sit down and stretch,” she said. “These are things I can do while I’m lying on the floor with the baby or making coffee in the morning.”

May resumes her work in photography, which makes her back health more important than ever.

She said she loves the way Harris’ approach makes it easy to incorporate healthy back movements throughout her day.

She is also grateful that she was able to receive telemedicine treatment.

Harris believes that the realization that virtual physical therapy can be so effective will be groundbreaking in the years to come.

“It is easier for patients to follow the prescribed exercises,” said Harris. “And the more you follow the plan and contact us on the way, the better results you will achieve.”

It’s especially gratifying when patients get great results in a short amount of time, Harris said.

She remembers the climax during May’s treatment – it came as a simple comment, but it fully expressed the rewards of her work.

“One day she said, ‘You know what, Beth? I loaded the dishwasher last night. And it was fine. ‘”

Thank You For Reading!


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