Stephen: The Last Straw

In June of 2014, Stephen Gill of Fulshear was returning from a visit to his family in the United Kingdom and was seated in the exit row on the plane. This is a great seat if you are tall like this 57-year-old accountant but it comes with a cost. The seat does not recline which meant he was in a frozen position for twelve long hours.

No stranger to back trouble having battled it off and on since 1999, he was not surprised that his back stiffened. The next day was a different story however. The act of bending down to pick something up off the floor seemed to be that last straw, the one that breaks backs. There was that sharp pain and spasm that everyone who has ever experienced back pain knows so well; a pain so sharp that it is seared in your memory.

“I didn’t even manage to pick it up,” he said ruefully.

He asked his doctor for a prescription for physical therapy and chose Physical Therapy Care & Aquatic Rehab of Fort Bend, the general practice clinic close to home that he used in the past.

The Diagnosis

The first round of sessions started with land therapy but the pain was not subsiding. When he returned to the orthopedist the decision was made to do an MRI. The diagnosis showed that the disc in the lower vertebra was herniated significantly, out to 13 mm or half an inch. In addition, there was a tear in the wall of the disc resulting in severe compression to both the spinal cord and the nerve root. The pain was so severe that Stephen was unable to stand for more than 20 seconds and he couldn’t walk upright. At home he was literally crawling around on all fours.

Choosing Conservative Care

After the MRI, the orthopedist recommended surgery but Stephen resisted. He chose to get a second opinion but the second doctor recommended surgery as well. Again Stephen resisted and persuaded him to try a third way, Aquatic Therapy. The doctor gave him a prescription for 2 weeks of therapy and Stephen returned to Physical Therapy Care & Aquatic Rehab of Fort Bend, the clinic that he trusted.

“His case was so very complicated and was a real challenge,” said Patti Kocich, PT and President of the company. “Most disc problems that are that extreme are solved with surgery but he was determined to avoid it. His commitment enabled us to use every back therapy technique, combining the Mckenzie Therapy approach with Aquatics in a dynamic program as he improved.”

“I knew that Aquatic Therapy would give us the ability to decompress his spine and joints,” she said. “Our goal was to relieve the pressure so that he could do the exercises that would give him the strength and flexibility he needed to heal.”

“The buoyancy of the pool allowed me to stand straight. It gave me the ability to actually do the exercises,” Stephen explained.

He started aquatic therapy at the clinic in central Richmond and then, when the new clinic in the Katy/Fulshear area opened in late 2014, he switched. “It was closer to home and I think I was one of their first patients,” he said.

After a month, Stephen returned to the doctor. “The surgeon was impressed that I could walk. He kept testing me, making me do things like stand on one leg and do squats.”

“Stephen spent two months coming to us for physical therapy,” said Patti. “His story speaks volumes about his tenacity and determination which are so important in achieving a good outcome.”

“His commitment to non-surgical healing made all the difference. He was perfectly compliant with all the instructions we gave; instructions as specific as how he sat, slept and stood.”

The Commitment To Stay Healthy

“He followed up each session with exercises at home. Then, when we were finished with the Physical and Aquatic Therapy portion of his recovery, he joined our Wellness Program for a few more months which gave him access to the pool and the machines at the clinic and allowed more time to strengthen and heal his body.”

“It was extremely helpful that before this flare up, Stephen was a long distance bike rider,” Patti pointed out. “He was in such great shape that he was able to regain his strength and function. This is a lesson for all of us to take care of ourselves and our bodies on an ongoing basis.”

“Choosing conservative care not only got him over this episode, but provided the education and training to help him prevent further occurrences which is the key to long term good health for us all,” added Patti.

Stephen added, “All that hard work paid off. I avoided the surgery and now there is no pain. I can walk and run. That pool and Physical Therapy Care & Aquatic Rehab of Fort Bend got me walking again.”

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