Claudia Maiorana, of Tarentum, participated in a physical therapy program at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute in Natrona Heights.

Claudia Maiorana, a 68-year-old Tarentum resident, first started experiencing back pain over a decade ago during a visit to her hometown in New Jersey.

In her hotel room, she felt a twinge in her back as she reached to grab her keys. A few hours later, she could not get up from her chair.

“I was prescribed medication from a doctor in New Jersey, but I was still in so much pain,” says Claudia, a recently retired senior vice president of customer success at a revenue cycle management solutions company. “I couldn’t even get myself to the airport to go back home. I needed help the entire way, and my husband had to come to the airport to pick me up when I landed. It was a devastating feeling for me because I’m normally quite active.”

Once home, she visited her primary care provider, Dr. Anupama Channarasappa, MD, Internal Medicine, who instructed her to take pain medicine, apply heat and ice, and rest.

Even after some relief, though, Claudia continued to feel limited by her pain. Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she consulted with Dr. Channarasappa and began participating in a physical therapy program at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute in Natrona Heights.

Dr. Channarasappa also suggested Claudia see a specialist to find out if more could be done to help with the pain.

Claudia scheduled an appointment with Vincent Silvaggio, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at UPMC St. Margaret.

“Dr. Silvaggio is fantastic. He performed my husband’s spine surgery, so I knew I wanted to consult with him,” says Claudia. “I wanted to be treated by the best.”

“After looking at my X-rays, Dr. Silvaggio said that what I had been experiencing was typical,” says Claudia. “I was weak around my core, which wasn’t helping me to stay strong. I asked him about physical therapy options, and he recommended I continue going to CRS Natrona Heights, but this time for a more personalized physical therapy experience.”

Claudia participated in physical therapy three times a week for six weeks, where she worked to grow stronger and relieve her pain. She also performed exercises at home to further her progress and develop the necessary strength in her core.

“The program that I went through was wonderful. I could never have imagined I would have such a personalized program,” says Claudia. “I have about 50 exercises that I can utilize at home. For those that I couldn’t do outside the facility, my physical therapist Joseph helped me modify them so that I can perform them now at home.”

“UPMC Rehabilitation Institute always takes a personalized approach to exercise prescription based on our evaluation findings, diagnosis, patient goals, and other factors like prior level of fitness,” says Joseph Riddle, DPT, OCS, facility director and physical therapist at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute in Natrona Heights. “Claudia responded excellently to starting her exercise program — her back pain had decreased. She was very motivated to take further action in working on her own health, which allowed us to advance her exercise program weekly.”

Claudia and her husband John

According to Riddle, monitoring treatment responses each session allows his team to know how patients are doing and provide them with the necessary feedback to make progress toward rehabilitation goals.

“In Claudia’s case, she was able to learn a quick routine to help her get going in the morning, and a more comprehensive program with built-in exercise progressions to build a good foundation of core strength and stability exercises,” adds Riddle.

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Eager for Round Two

After she finished six weeks of therapy, Claudia followed up with Dr. Silvaggio.

“I felt great! However, I asked if I could do another six weeks of physical therapy,” says Claudia. “I really wanted to embed these programs in my routine and ensure that I could continue doing them by myself.”

With the Natrona Heights facility just down the road from her home, Claudia could easily balance her physical therapy with her work and personal schedules. “Every time I went, I progressively felt better,” says Claudia.

Back and Stronger Than Ever

Once Claudia wrapped up another six weeks of therapy, she knew she was prepared for whatever would come next.

“Thanks to the whole team at the Natrona Heights facility, I have a better outlook on the rest of my life,” says Claudia. “Now that I’m retired, I want to be in the best shape of my life so I can enjoy this next chapter. That’s what I’ve worked for these past 48 years.”

Riddle says that after Claudia responded so well to her first round of treatment, his team was able to shift their focus to long-term health and injury prevention.

“We educated her on many functional exercises designed to promote ergonomics, good lifting practice, healthy habits, and strengthening her back and core,” he says.

Claudia looks forward to resuming her active lifestyle alongside her husband, including their upcoming trip to the Outer Banks, where she plans to kayak.

“When you have an injury or chronic pain, it makes your life so much better knowing that you don’t have to be limited by the pain,” says Claudia.

For more information about the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, or to make an appointment, call 1-888-723-4277.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.