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Anyone else (esp. with a fusion) feel that PT's can hurt you, more than help?!?

Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
edited 03/02/2016 - 10:05 PM in Recovering from Surgery
I have posted already, but as some of you may not know I have had a 3 level ACDF C4-C7. I also woke up from surgery with NEW intense shoulder pain that over 9 months has barely rehabilitated the way it was before the surgery. Plus I had the fusion, 5/2015, unresolved numbness and tingling in my thoracic spine so I got an MRI 9/2015 that did not show any disc herniations, just degeneration, then 2/2016 an MRI of the cervical spine showed a herniation at the base of the fusion C7-T1 that was not there 5 months prior. Between 9/2015 and 12/2015 I herniated the C7-T1. In that time I have done physical therapy at the same location to strengthen myself. When I was done I could still barely move my right arm enough to feel normal. The PT there issues the exercises and the aides watch you and assist you that contributed to the disconnect in communication I think. I tried a second physical therapy place were I would be there for 3 hours and my right arm would be incredibly inflamed, that is when I had the MRI of my shoulder 1/2016 and my neck in 2/2016.

Today I tried a new PT today who told me post fusion, with a new disc herniation at C7-T1, old one at C3-C4 and shoulder tendonosis, calcifications, that my pain is coming from my head and my fear of the old pain!! Needless to say I won't be returning. She did a thorough exam and I'm in a lot of increased pain because of it. Also, she is training a physical therapist so he was learning on me too. They did not mention that nor was it negotiable at my appointment.

During the appointment today, the physical therapist asked me to lie down then lift my head forward with my C4-C7 fusion and new C7-T1 disc herniation and hold it there as long as possible. I told her I don't want to do that. I was taught by my doctor and other PT's that it is bad for the spine and anyone with spine issues to push forward like doing a sit up to get up, but roll to one side and support yourself from the side to get up. She smiled at me like I was crazy then slipped her thin hand under my skull and said, Well you just did it now! I said yes because you pushed your hand in, after I told her no. Plus it was a very small movement. The PT and her student wouldn't clarify if they intended for me to flex forward from the base of my neck or if I could lift up straight inline with my spine and lift my shoulder blades off as well. I did my lift that way and held it. Also I told her my surgeon told me no traction. And what does she do during my exam? She pulls up my legs by the ankles and pulls back. I tell her I feel increased pain in my neck when she does that, she loosens it up a little, then releases and said there, you just had some traction for your whole body, including your neck. She says with a laugh. I want to strangle this lady. My disc hurts now even more and in a new way tonight. I feel like many PT's may even do more harm to complicated patients like myself. It's not like I'm 15 in gym class and you want me to do my sit ups. I'm 42 and I have just been in a hard collar for months, I've been having trouble getting my flexibility back and you want me to push forward on my fusion and a painful disc just to see how strong I am? What?!? What do you think after seeing my flexibility and knowing I had major surgery? Genius.

There is part of me that wonders if part of my issue is me protecting myself from further herniations, that is giving me the continued stiffness and is possibly the reason I was susceptible to getting the disc herniation at C7-T1 with no major incident to speak of except things that happen to everyone. Like I hit a terrible pothole or it possibly happened when I was coughing with aspiration pneumonia 11/2015 after my surgery because I now have issues swallowing. Or maybe it happened during my physical therapy when the PT held onto my head and pulled my chin up while he held my chest down to stretch my scar. That felt so wrong and I couldn't speak while he was holding my chin. I just prayed it wouldn't cause damage.

Sorry for the long rant. If you have read this far you have probably had a similar experience. My PT experiences have been even worse than what I mentioned, I just don't feel like wasting time on more stupid examples. I'm going to try a new therapist Monday. I hate that I have lost PT appointments this year that will be covered by my insurance. I only get 30 a year and have used up 7 as of today trying to find the right PT. Anyone else have this frustration? Are you supposed to feel like your on fire after PT? Should your disc pain feel sharp in a new way after therapy?

Has anyone with a 3 level fusion been told to bring your head towards your chest as much as you can and lift it back as much as possible with disc herniations above and below the fusion?!? They even told me to do neck circles all around. Doesn't seem right. But if anyone with a large fusion is doing things like this I'd love to know!
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Comments

  • joowee40joowee40 Mississippi Posts: 307
    I hurt like hades after pt and while I expect it because it serves to remember when you go to the gym your muscles will be sore, I hurt and have to hit the big pain pills that afternoon and night. I have to hold my shoulder while doing some of the exercises and it just hurts worse than presurgery and I'm worried too and feel it is making it worse. I see the physical medicine dr tomorrow so I can gripe and complain and beg him to do something because it just doesn't feel like it's normal healing and typical pain from pt. I'm in your boat too although I'm behind u..9 wks post 2 level. I've been following you for a bit and I hope you get better.
  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510

    Faith

    My problem was that nobody at PT seemed to listen to me.  The exercises were hurting me.  After months, the PT suggested that I take some time off.  Within two weeks I was so much better.

    It seems like you are describing a stretching move for muscles at the back of the neck.  Chin down, stretch back of head up.  My surgeon has recommended this after both surgeries.

    I am not doing PT this time, oddly nobody has suggested it to me and I'm not asking for it.

    Good luck finding a good PT.

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

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  • Joowee40,
    Sorry to hear that you are suffering with this pain too. I wish you all the best and if I can help with advice I will.
    Bruce,
    Good to hear from you. I have seen your prior posts. I believe you had a failed fusion and then recently had the second to correct it, same levels as me. From what I read you seem to be doing very well! :) That is good to hear and share. What I mentioned earlier was not the stretch, although that seems a bit scary to me too, it was a strength test, me lying on my back and picking my head up and holding it forward for as long as possible just to see how strong my neck was. She asked me this after I told her I have a NEW disc herniation adjacent to the 3 level fusion (plus an older one C3-C4). When I communicated with her, as I mentioned above, I got nowhere. No education to make me feel confident in doing it, nor acknowledgement that it could be a bad idea. I got the feeling she just thinks I'm nuts from this visit. Also, I have a history of fibromyalgia and all the PT's dump everything on that despite the fact it has not been active since about 2005. I feel the same regarding the PT's, I can't seem to find one that truly listens. Although when I stop PT, I don't feel better, but I don't feel the intense pain that comes with PT either.
    What are you doing for stretching or exercise, anything?
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    After reading some of these comments, my immediate conclusion is that some of the physical therapists that you have been seeing do not seem totally trained as professional medical individuals.

    A well trained Physical Therapist can offer more value than almost any other rehabilitation module.   But as with any type of service, you will find good and bad.  Over the years, I have been to about 15 different Rehabilitation centers and have seen over 20 different therapists.  It wasnt  until 2006 that I found a center and therapist I had total faith and confidence in.

    I stayed with the same therapist over the years for my different spinal  and joint problems.   She started to understand my body better than I did.   When I would walk into the center, she would spot if I had a slight hitch in my walk and started to work on fixing that.

    I have also had a therapist that caused problems for me.  They were trying to 'push' me more than I could .   Fortunately, after having PT for all those years, I just told them nope, not going to do that.   They gave me a hard time, but I just said no.

    In general, Physical Therapy should be a good  and helpful aspect of your medical treatment.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510
    Ron

    Saying "no" is so true.  I did the same, and slowly they understood that when I said no, I meant no.  I would usually try something once, but then discontinue if I thought it was wrong for me.  What I didn't realize was that I should have said no to the whole thing earlier.  I didn't want to be the guy that refused treatment, and I really had mixed feelings.  The stretching and TENS got me through the week, the training is what I think caused problems.

    Faith

    On stretching, after the second surgery it has become more difficult to stretch.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that I didn't have too much that needed stretching.  I did this, and don't know that it is for everyone, but I started doing some range of motion stretching by turning my head from side to side.  It didn't take long for that to loosen the one muscle that felt tight.  I didn't really expect that, but was pleased.  And, I can turn my head better now!

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

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  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 03/03/2016 - 7:19 PM
    You're so right Ron. The owner of the PT place called me to hear about what happened I emailed her back and let her know much more that happened that I wouldn't want to waste your time with here. Her response was apologetic but in defense of the pt unfortunately. She sent me an article about perception and how the brain deals with pain in relation to chronic pain, despite most of my issues right now are from the immobilization during healing. My neck and left arm nerve pain was 90% better after being decompressed from surgery. I slowly felt pain come into play from being immobilized in the collar. It now feels worse from my new herniation too. I explained to her my goal with pt was to find someone who could do manual work on my scar tissue around my neck and shoulder to free it up so I could do effective stretches and exercises. I also wanted if possible to get my small C7-T1 disc to reabsorb and relieve the burning bilateral pain on my C8 nerve root.

    They spent time making it a mind thing that helps no one. The PT even said to me plenty of people get disc herniations and their fine, never need surgery! I just don't get how you can say that to someone who just had a 3 level fusion and has recently herniated adjacent discs! I wish I was one of those people, but it doesn't seem to make sense to say that to a patient like me in that context. So frustrating. I'm trying a new place on Monday.

    I called my surgeon's nurse practitioner and told her that this pt wanted to do traction and she did confirm that it was not advised within the first year. I also told her that she wanted me to lie down on a table and bend my neck forward and hold it for as long as I could to test my strength. My NP said it sounds like she is trying to do range of motion, (no it was a test for strength), and if it hurts don't do it. I asked, but even if it didn't hurt, doesn't it put pressure on the adjacent discs in a dangerous way? She said no if it doesn't hurt, which surprised me. Why would you want to rotate at the base of the fusion, especially when you are still stiff and not in great physical shape and worst of all have a fresh disc herniation there?

    Bruce,
    I'm so happy to hear you feel good! It gives me hope!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    PT - Physical Therapy can be so very helpful to members.  but using that same subject criteria. the same
     conclusion
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • joowee40joowee40 Mississippi Posts: 307
    edited 03/04/2016 - 12:26 AM
    I got not so good news today and am so confused. Dr said that no what I'm feeling is not normal healing and my hand should not be as numb as presurgery and pain shouldn't be this much. Ordered stop pt,  new xray, and new mri, round of steroids. Says I may have a reherniation which just floored me bc I thought they took the freaking things out when they did the fusion and I'm just devastated and what's to stop it from happening again and again and again. I have cried so much this evening. I hope this is not what they find on mri and it is something simple but I feel the pt was just too aggressive and caused this. 
  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 03/04/2016 - 3:32 AM
    Joowee40,
    Sounds like your doctor was referring to adjacent discs to the fusion. I would call his office to clarify. I'm afraid of physical therapists too. Yet I found some posts of people doing all kinds of major workouts right after multi level fusion and feel fine. I think it was because they were in great shape before the surgery. If you have been restricted because of injury and pain it is harder to rebuild your body but I like to believe it can be done despite all my bad pt experiences.
    I'm so sorry you are going through this too. I hope there is a speedy solution to resolve your pain for you.
    Faith981
  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 03/04/2016 - 3:43 AM
    Kimmy72,
    Thank you for your kind words. Don't let anyone hurt you. If I had more guts I would have walked out on some of these people. They are unprofessional. At least I haven't let them guilt me into going back.
    I'm curious what is PMA listed at the bottom of your post?
    Faith981
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