It's not always easy to get to the source of long-standing pain-and then to cure it. Michael Foy suffered from back pain for years. "I install and repair commercial washers and dryers, which puts me in precarious positions," he explains. "I lift things, and I bend over a lot."
Last year, Foy had surgery to treat spinal stenosis, but the old pain eventually returned-and worse than ever. "I went to a lot of different places for help," he says, noting that he received cortisone shots and nerve ablation and also had a neuro-spinal stimulator implanted-all aimed at relieving his pain. "Before my surgery, I was put on a fentanyl [pain] patch. I did get relief, but I got hooked. That was not the quality of life I had hoped for."
The Fall River resident had been out of work for more than a year when he met someone who "raved" about New England Baptist Hospital. "At that time, I thought I was disabled, because the pain caused me to stumble when I walked," Foy recalls. But once he met Eugenio Martinez, MD, a physiatrist (physician who focuses on diagnosing and treating pain) on staff at the Baptist's renowned Spine Center, he learned the source of his pain. Even better, there was a non-surgical solution.
"After Dr. Martinez had a CT scan performed, he determined that I had a second stenosis in my spine," says Foy. "But he also figured out that my gluteus [buttock] muscles were knotted from all that sitting around trying to get better. He told me that the muscles in my back and in my buttocks were fighting each other."
Martinez prescribed a course of research-based exercise designed to strengthen Foy's back and also target his gluteus muscles. "He gave me a handout and recommended that I read a book called Back Sense, which explains how to rehab the back," he says. "Dr. Martinez warned me that the exercises he prescribed would be tough. He also said that if I thought about quitting, I should call him."
The first three weeks of Foy's exercise regimen were exactly as Martinez had described it. "At one point, I was ready to quit, but I knew this was the best chance I had to get healthy," says Foy, who carried out his rehab program at a nearby Dartmouth facility where Martinez had referred him to a specific physical therapist. By week four, he had turned the corner.
"I could bend and reach without pain," says Foy, who continued to improve, returned to work and maintains his back muscles through regular trips to the gym. "At 57, I have arthritis, but I'm back to work with no pain. And I can bend over and play with my grandkids.
"Even Dr. Martinez is surprised at how well I've done. I can't say enough about him. He sure knows his stuff."