Beginning in 2006, chronic back pain became a way of life for Robert Peter.
“I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t walk for any period of time. I was extremely limited. Even simple things like going to the store became difficult. It really affected everything in my life.”
Finally diagnosed in 2009 with a laundry list of spine problems including degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and facet arthritis, Robert was desperate for relief. His spinal conditions would not be improved with surgery, so he sought relief from a number of sources.
“I have had at least 10-12 spinal injections over the past several years. Everything I tried provided temporary relief. I tried acupuncture, went to a chiropractor, consulted with several pain management institutions—nothing lasted. I have tried 14 kinds of prescription drugs throughout the last 10 years, and for the past four years, I was on severe opioids.”
After being on OxyContin for two years, Robert did not like the way he was feeling.
“If I didn’t take the medication on time, I would start to get withdrawal symptoms.” Robert’s physician switched his medication to morphine.
“I took that for two years, which did provide some relief for my back pain. But as time went on, and the opioid epidemic continued to grow, my PCP suggested that I try to get off the opioids. He suggested I visit the New England Baptist Hospital Spine Center.”
Robert was referred to Eugenio Martinez, MD, physiatrist at the NEBH Spine Center. Dr. Martinez suggested an aggressive physical therapy program, nicknamed “Boot Camp.”
“The phrase ‘boot camp’ really intimidated me. I had tried physical therapy at other locations before, and I thought well, here we go again. I was worried about having to join a gym after the physical therapy program was over, and I was almost dead set against doing that. I have never joined a gym in my entire life. I thought at this stage of my life, I really can’t see myself joining a gym.”
After sharing his concerns with Dr. Martinez, Robert decided to give the physical therapy program a try.
“I went, and I actually really enjoyed it. The people there were unbelievable. They were very supportive. I really got into it. I exceeded all their expectations as far as the weights and exercises. It was amazing.”
Under the guidance of his primary care physician and Dr. Martinez, Robert also began tapering down the morphine he was taking.
“Dr. Martinez had me reduce my morphine use by 30 mgs every two weeks. Every two weeks, I went through hell and back. I didn’t think it would be that severe. Although getting off them totally was difficult at the end, looking back, it was all well worth it. I am thinking a lot clearer. I didn’t realize when I was on the medication that it was almost like I was in a fog.”
Now a graduate of the Boot Camp program and completely off all opioids, Robert is a new person.
“It’s incredible. I really have no back pain. I have aches here and there if I do something for an extended period of time, but nothing compared to what I was dealing with before. I am going to the gym. My wife is now going with me, and she had never joined a gym in her life either, so it’s really changed our entire lifestyle. I don’t have morphine in me; I can think clearly. I am starting to spend my time volunteering. I am going to my grandson’s football games, where I can sit for a period of time, I can walk around and enjoy the game.”
For others with back pain, “I would strongly suggest treatment at NEBH. Dr. Martinez and the physical therapy team in Dedham were outstanding. Their expertise and compassion made it possible for me to not only leave with great results, which was amazing, but their true concern during my detox period gave me the strength to push myself to my limit.”