If you have an ongoing struggle with back pain, physical therapy may help bring lasting relief when other methods fail.
There seemed to be no end in sight. Sarah Field, 33, was paying for alternative treatments to ease the pain in her lower back, hip and neck, but those treatments only served as temporary fixes.
With a job that requires strength as well as skill, this Roane Medical Center nurse found herself staring at an endless series of appointments and pharmacy purchases. Counting the cost was discouraging.
“It just didn’t sit well with me,” Field says. “I was like, ‘Surely this can’t be my life forever. There has to be an alternative to get my back feeling better.’”
Managing back pain for about ten years, Field’s concern became more pressing as she started to see the limits it placed on her personal life. She and her fiancée had recently started farming, but caring for the chickens, goats and pigs could be painful.
“I know that I’m young but simple chores are honestly hard for me when my back is really bad,” Sarah says. “I can’t bend over for an extended period of time to do anything.”
Feeding and watering the animals, cleaning out their pens, and even just trying to pet and play with them hurt. Then Field began to think about the future.
“I’m getting married, and we want to have kids,” Sarah says. “What’s going to happen when I can’t bend over to play or bend over and give my kids a bath without my back hurting?”
Physical Therapy Works
After a colleague recommended physical therapy, Field decided it was time to be more proactive in pursuing better health. She made an appointment at Covenant Health Therapy Center – Harriman, located next to the hospital and about 10 minutes from her home.
“I honestly can’t believe how quick it was,” she says. “After two to three weeks, my back was feeling better, and now it feels great.”
While the weekly sessions paid off in pain relief, that wasn’t the only goal her physical therapy team had in mind.
“Once we had her pain controlled, then it was just a matter of preventing it from coming back,” says Matt Magee, manager of rehabilitation services. “We taught her exercises for postural stability, for core strengthening, things that would help her with lifting and moving patients at work without further injuring herself.”
Field paid close attention, and it continues to pay off now that her physical therapy appointments have come to an end.
“Matt showed me tons of exercises and showed me that I need to start strengthening my core because that really helps hold up your back,” Field says. “The best part about it is that I don’t have to make a follow-up appointment in the future and pay more money because I already have these exercises and the materials that he’s been giving me to do it by myself if my back starts hurting in the future.”
Magee says that’s exactly what physical therapy is designed to do for people like Field – empower the patient.
“I think one of the important things about coming to therapy is that you leave with the tools to take care of yourself,” Magee says. “Part of our job is to educate patients and make them feel empowered to understand their condition and what to do so that, hopefully, they don’t have to spend a lot of extra time coming back to doctor’s appointments or to therapy visits in order to feel like they know how to take care of themselves.”
Field is enjoying a busy life making wedding plans, farming and giving her patients at Roane Medical Center the best care possible, all without the level of pain she experienced before physical therapy. As long as she’s committed to taking care of herself, she’ll only have to go back if there’s an unexpected severe strain or injury.
Life moves at a fast pace, but Field wants to encourage other healthcare workers to put the brakes on and take care of what matters.
“Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, and don’t hesitate to go to physical therapy,” Field says. “Don’t wait until things get too bad for your back, but be proactive about your health.”