News

Same-Day Spine Appointment Puts Athlete on Fast Track to Recovery
January 22, 2019

When Heather May’s running program veered off track because of an injury, she turned to St. Luke’s Comprehensive Spine program for quick diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Now, the 27-year-old from Center Valley is back to running 9-minute miles and training for the annual St. Luke’s Half Marathon on April 28, 2019.

Heather, an extremely active assistant chemist, plays adult recreational volleyball up to four times week and is loving the world of road racing, but even tasks such as walking the hall from her office to the laboratory and bending over to look through the microscope had become excruciatingly painful.

“The pain would come out of nowhere,” Heather said. “It was so bad; it was hard to walk. I could barely function. It had been happening since May, and I couldn’t take it anymore.”

A friend suggested Heather see a physical therapist. She did some online research and called one local healthcare network who told her she needed to see a doctor before she could be referred to a physical therapist.

Then she called Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s in Emmaus, where she was informed about the St. Luke’s Comprehensive Spine program. She called the number where a nurse triaged her case and got her a same-day physical therapy appointment a few hours later.

“She was so sweet, professional and caring,” Heather said. “She was the nicest woman I ever talked to on the phone, very thorough, understanding and listened to every word I said. It was absolutely amazing. I got their next available opening just a few hours later.”

Upon arriving, Matt Campbell, DPT, took charge of her case.

“Heather first came to us in mid-November,” Dr. Campbell said. “She also had some right knee pain along with the back pain, and she wasn’t sure if the back pain was because she was running a little differently because of the knee issue.”

After a thorough examination of the issues, Dr. Campbell evaluated Heather’s running form on a treadmill and noticed she was over-striding, which may have been contributing to her symptoms. He recommended increasing her step rate per minute, which would automatically decrease her stride length and minimize the force of impact with each foot strike.

He also recommended a series of strengthening exercises that targeted her transverse abdominis to improve her core stability, utilizing exercises such as modified planks and other specific exercises.

“It was such a welcoming atmosphere and I had a sense of warmth there because they were very much concerned about my health getting better, focusing not only on my back, but my knee,” Heather said. “I recommend them to everyone.”

“Matt offered two small tweaks to my running, and gave me homework with exercises I did twice a day to work on my core in order to stabilize my back. He helped me understand my pain by showing me where the pain was coming from, and why.”

Heather needed just four visits plus the at-home program to return to her 9-minute miles. She is back on track to train for the St. Luke’s Half Marathon, with a test-run 15K run before that.

“One of our goals with Comprehensive Spine is that our patients can come right in the door and get immediate relief so they can get back to doing the things they love as soon as safely possible,” Dr. Campbell said. “Heather is a perfect example of that.”