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  • From Move Forward Radio: A Journey Out of Pain and Away From Painkillers, Thanks to Physical Therapy

    Morgan Hay had been down with the flu for about a week and was starting to get bored. So she turned on a horror movie to break up the monotony. It worked: not long into the movie, she jumped off the couch and attempted to run upstairs, away from all the scariness, only to slam her right big toe into a stair. The resultant pain was intense.

    That's when she entered what turned out to be a real-life nightmare that took her from specialist to specialist, and subjected her to multiple painkillers that made her feel "like a zombie." The pain was so overwhelming that it caused her to lose consciousness nearly 2 months after the initial injury.

    It was a nightmare that only ended after extensive work with a physical therapist (PT). Hay recounts her story in the latest edition of "Move Forward Radio," APTA's twice-monthly podcast series that educates the public about the benefits of physical therapist treatment.

    Initially, Hay thought she had badly stubbed her toe. But when she woke up the next day still in excruciating pain, she went to the local hospital emergency department to find out that she had sustained multiple fractures in her toe. She was put in a cast, but 11 days later, her orthopedist removed it due to the intense pain Hay was still experiencing.

    A neurologist diagnosed Hay with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and then the pain medications started rolling in: at one point Hay says, she was taking Cymbalta, Lyrica, and methadone for the pain, and some doctors she visited were even pressing her to begin taking additional antidepressants.

    Hay understood that the current course of treatment wasn't really addressing the pain, but merely masking it. Finally, in desperation, the 23-year-old made an appointment at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, where she was seen by a team of providers, including Nancy Durban, PT, DPT, MS.

    That's when things began turn around for Hay. She was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, and prescribed intensive physical therapy, accompanied by pain medications, which would be gradually reduced and finally eliminated.

    "Nancy understood everything I was going through," Hay says. "She knew exactly what to say and what to do to make me feel like I was heard—and it helped my pain."

    It took nearly a year of physical therapy, sometimes at 4 or 5 sessions a day, before Hay was fully recovered. But the process helped Hay understand how pain was a signal that something needs to be addressed, and not simply a sensation that needs to be blocked or dulled through drugs.

    "I felt like I was going to be on pain medication forever," Hay says. "I couldn't really see a light before I went to physical therapy," but once she did, "I was actually doing something to help me. I didn't have to rely on medicine to heal my pain."

    APTA is raising public awareness about the risks of opioids and the benefits of physical therapy via its #ChoosePT campaign, which includes TV and radio public service announcements, national advertising, and free resources at MoveForwardPT.com/ChoosePT.

    APTA members are encouraged to alert their patients to the radio series and other MoveForwardPT.com resources to help educate the public about the benefits of treatment by a physical therapist. Ideas for future episodes and other feedback can be emailed to consumer@apta.org.


    • I think Hay's story should get on NPR (National Public Radio) to educate the public who can then spread he word. A recent TED Talk on NPR told the story of a woman who suffered for years with pelvic pain until she reached a very skilled pelvic pain specialist P.T. who turned her life around. I also hope PT's can spend 30 minutes in each medical school educating future MD's of the value of P.T. for pain mitigation.

      Posted by Ellen Colley on 11/23/2016 10:34 PM

    • My sister, 49 years old who had a knee replacement more than 1 year ago and has been in excruciating pain and is very similar to the scenario above with lots of pain meds and antidepressants and she has been living life without quality and hopeless. I am asking if you know how we can find a team of professionals that could help my sister. We live in Buffalo NY but are willing to go anywhere that would help..any ideas?

      Posted by Karen J Scutt, PT on 11/27/2016 12:42 PM

    • Go to www.moveforwardpt.com/ and select tab "Find a PT". You'll obtain providers within a set distance from your local. Email those PT's you select describing your sisters condition and referencing this PTinMotion article.

      Posted by Rodney Dennehy on 12/4/2016 7:16 PM

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