David Bartek is looking forward to a hunting trip in Texas this December with his step-sons and nephew. Back in September, that hardly seemed possible, but thanks to the Comprehensive Spine program at St. Luke’s, he’s back on track to bag a Texas whitetail deer.
“The people at St. Luke’s that I worked with did an awesome job,” David said. “They really worked with me the way I needed to in order to get better.”
David, 69, of Bethlehem, suffered a compression fracture of his thoracic spine during a slip-and-fall on ice in his driveway in 2014. Recovery seemed to be going well for a while, but then some lumbar spine issues emerged in 2016.
So Dr. Farooq Qureshi of St. Luke’s Spine & Pain Associates at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus in Easton performed a radiofrequency ablation along with some injections to alleviate the arthritic pain. “It’s a minimally invasive procedure that heats up small medial branch nerves which control pain information from arthritis, “ Dr. Qureshi said. “It can provide significant relief for people with chronic pain.”
It worked, but then came September of this year, and David realized his back was feeling weaker. He was hunched over and couldn’t walk very far. Not good if you’re planning to walk the wilds of Texas.
His wife Mariann suggested he call the hot line for St. Luke’s new Comprehensive Spine program, where potential patients speak with a nurse who triages them for immediate referral to the proper course of treatment. Most patients benefit from a course of physical therapy which can reduce pain and improve movement.
Physical therapists perform an evaluation to diagnose the problem and the best way to treat it. David’s best option was physical therapy, and Greg Colvin, DPT took charge.
“David came to Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s with lumbago, or low back pain. He presented with a gait dysfunction and a limited active range of motion as well as lower body and core strength impairments,” Dr. Colvin said. “It was an acute exacerbation of his chronic back condition. We did a thorough evaluation and developed a customized treatment plan based on his needs.
“He had a long history of low back pain which was due from a fall. He told me he let it go until it became unbearable,” Dr. Colvin added. “We helped him re-introduce exercise into his life. During some of the treatments, he had some pain along the way, but we were basically reactivating and reawakening the muscles after the injury or dysfunction had developed.”
“When I came to PT, the first thing was an initial evaluation,” David said. “Greg provided me with a home-exercise program at the conclusion of the evaluation. I also returned to see Greg at the clinic. He had me start out on the stationary bicycle for 10 minutes to warm up the muscles. After several visits, Greg introduced a really neat piece of equipment – the anti-gravity treadmill.”
David used the AlterG® anti-gravity treadmill and worked on core-activation exercises designed to increase mobility in the spine and reduce compression on the discs.
“The AlterG® is a gravity-eliminating treadmill that can reduce a patient’s effective bodyweight by up to 80 percent,” Dr. Colvin said. “By decreasing the weight placed through the spine, we can ‘reset’ the mutifidi, or deep muscles, along the back of the spine.”
David remembers a lot of stretching exercises on the table, as well as some back massage with a roller, and laser treatments. The laser treatments stimulated healing of the mitochondria on a cellular level. Dr. Colvin then added strengthening exercise. In less than eight weeks, David was released from treatment and has an at-home program to prevent any regression.
“It’s an awesome treatment program,” Dr. Colvin said. “It put David in touch with someone who could help him, sooner rather than later. To me, the greatest thing about the program is getting patients into the clinic as soon as possible.”
“Comprehensive Spine is an excellent program,” Dr. Qureshi said. “A lot of times after patients have improvement through injections or other procedures, they can become lax about continuing their exercises. Comprehensive Spine gets them into the mode of thinking they have to constantly work on their back or neck, do the strength exercises, because it teaches them that if they don’t, things can go backward.”