Chronic Back Pain – Healed after 20 Years, A Personal Story:
‘Why did you become a Physical Therapist?’ I get that question all the time. Most people assume there was an event that landed me in PT that paved my path of professional destiny to where I am today.
My story involves me laying on icy hill, scanning my body to see if I could still move my arms and legs, praying I didn’t have a spinal cord injury after my first time skiing. I had tried to stop along an icy slope, causing me to somersault several times, and ultimately coming to stop on my stomach with my spine and limbs in contorted positions.
I moved my hands and feet and realized that the worst case scenario had not happened. However, what did happen truly paved my destiny in life…
However this is a story of how the Medical System and Physical Therapy INITIALLY FAILED ME… Until I discovered John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release (MFR) and the combination of this with Physical Therapy changed my life and saved my back.
… I was left with a broken collar bone and a ‘sprained’ back. As the collar bone healed my back pain continued to linger… with significant pain. I went to multiple specialists the first couple years who merely stated ‘you sprained your back, you’re going to have to push through it’ (nothing showed up on my MRI’s or other imaging!)
So that’s what I did. I was active (age 14 at the time) and ran track, cross country, played basketball and later was on the University of Marquette’s rowing team in college. I was athletic and determined enough to push through the pain to become an all-conference runner and a top rower at Marquette. I often heard, “The back pain can’t be that bad if you can do all that with your body, right?”
More than a decade later, I began to get some answers. I worked with a talented Physical Therapist who was able to help determine that my ‘sprained’ back was actually 3 levels of my spine traumatically rotated out of place. She performed some techniques that were able to get the spine back in alignment which helped some of the pain improve but most of it remained.
My tissue system surrounding the vertebrae had become very tight and painful itself. I tried to stabilize the system by getting it stronger, but that actually made it worse. The stronger I got the more my spine would get pulled back into to the old positions.
I kept trying different specialists but was told again and again; “You’re just going to have to live with the pain.” (Have you ever had doctors/professionals tell you that?)
Then the sinking reality hit. I’m in my 20s, have lived in chronic pain over 15 years and its now getting worse as I age. What is my life going to be like in my 40’s and 50’s? Would I be able to do my job? Would I be able to live a good life?? Is a life full of pain meds my destiny???
There was a part of me that refused this outcome and I kept seeking (an answer, a tool, a technique… something!!) Then, while working for Mayo, a colleague asked if I had heard of the John F. Barnes method of Myofascial Release. I had little knowledge, but shared my story and she suggested I could benefit from seeing her husband who specialized in the method.
After 2 sessions of John F. Barnes Myofascial Release, I was absolutely floored that I could lay on the ground and throw my legs behind my head!! Now I know that is not a gold standard test, but what is important here is that I could do get into positions with my body that I had not been able to achieve since before my accident (at that time nearly 20 years)!
So what is this magical John F. Barnes Myofascial Release?? Well, it all starts with FASCIA. Modern research has proven your body has a cobwebbing of connective tissue, called fascia, that surrounds every single cell in your body. And traumas to this system such as large accidents, surgeries, sports injuries or even small traumas such as how we sit in one position regularly begin to tighten the system. Over time, if not appropriately released, fascial restrictions have the capability of compressing your body with crushing pressures up to 2,000 pounds per square inch!! That’s nearly a metric ton condensed into a 1 inch cube!
And, this does not show up on any imaging!!
I discovered the life-changing gift of John F. Barnes Myofascial Release just 4 years ago. It’s been quite the journey for me but every year since then, I began to feel better than the year before. My back (now at age 36) feels better than when I was 16,17,18,19,20… you get the picture. I’m now grateful to participate in regular yoga and Pilates (both have positively helped me on this journey), ride my bike, play guitar, Frisbee golf, trail hike and live (most days) nearly pain free!
On top of that, I even ‘grew’ an inch in my 30s after releasing my fascial restrictions!!!
I do continue to take care of myself Myofascial Release and other powerful Physical Therapy body-balancing techniques. I feel blessed that I have been able to use this amazing skillset to help more than 1,000 people on their journey, many who have had failed surgeries, failed other types of physical therapy and have been told ‘you’re just going to have to live with the pain.’
It is a passion not only for myself but for my patients to understand how the fascial system is often a missing link for those who feel there is no hope for them. Because I have lived with chronic pain from a young age for so long, I have a unique perspective in understanding how frustrating it can be to have chronic pain without any answers or direction.
But now, with completing more than 180 hours of highly specialized training in the John F. Barnes method of myofascial release, I love showing my patients how this surprisingly gentle approach can allow them to return to a state of significantly less pain and better function.
I used to joke that the human body is not a fine bottle of wine. Most of us feel that we do not typically get better with age. However, I now know that with the right conditions (some great hands-on Myofascial Release and learning how to treat yourself too), you may very well find that your body can feel better and younger than the year(s) before!!
If you are curious to see if this could be an opportunity for you to have a such a success story, and to see if Myofascial Release could be the missing link in your journey, visit our website www.BalanceWithinPT.com to learn more or just give us a call (262.264.8701), we are always happy to answer any questions.
Thank you for letting me share my journey with you. It is an honor for me to help as many people as I can in life with this incredible knowledge. If this story makes you think of a loved one, do them a favor, share this with them. It may change their life… or yours!
Until our paths may cross, Be Well!
Dr. Jereme Trunk, PT, PDT