Getting back to a pain-free life: Matt's story

Matt is an avid runner and lives an active life. So, when the 45-year-old corrections officer began experiencing pain in his left hip and leg, he assumed it was just a part of getting older. But as the pain grew unbearable, he knew he needed to ask for help.

“The pain got worse and worse, to the point where I couldn’t even climb the stairs with my left leg. I had to take one step at a time and lead with my right leg,” Matt says. “I was barely sleeping since I couldn’t lay on my sides. I had to stop running due to the pain, and I couldn’t even work.”

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The Path to Physical Therapy

To address the pain, Matt first visited his doctor and got x-rays, but nothing on the x-ray appeared to explain the cause of his pain. The next day, he tried seeing a chiropractor, where they noted that he had inflammation in several areas and suggested he seek further treatment.

Matt, who had previously completed physical therapy at a UPMC outpatient rehab clinic in Erie, called UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and was able to get an appointment for the next day.

At his appointment, Matt worked with Ryan Brown, DPT, Cert. MDT, to pinpoint the cause of his pain.

“Ryan went through the possibilities with me one by one to try and determine what was going on. At first, every time we thought we were getting close to diagnosing the problem, we would come across something that sort of ruled out that possibility,” says Matt. “But Ryan didn’t give up! He decided to prescribe me three exercises to try that would help identify and treat my pain. I really appreciated his dedication.”

Identifying the Source of His Pain

Matt was told to try the first exercise for two days and see if there was any improvement. If not, he should move on to the second exercise for two days, assess his condition, and so on.

“I was excited to try the first exercise, figure out a way to alleviate the pain, and get back to my life, but unfortunately, the first exercise did nothing for me,” says Matt.

Next, he tried the second exercise in the morning on Thanksgiving Day.

“I was determined to get better and didn’t want to miss out on the holiday festivities with my family,” says Matt. “When I first tried the second exercise, I did three sets of ten, and I immediately felt something different. I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad, but there was definitely something happening that I hadn’t felt before.”

By that afternoon when his family came over for Thanksgiving dinner, Matt was able to put his weight on his left leg. That night, he was able to get some sleep.

He continued doing that exercise for one week, and after his second physical therapy session, he was able to move better and ease himself back into running again. By the following weekend, he felt almost fully recovered and ready to go back to work.

“I was overjoyed. Thanks to one exercise, I was already feeling like I was getting back to my life,” says Matt. “I never even had to try the third exercise!”

Once Matt and Ryan knew that the second exercise helped reduce the pain, Ryan was able to determine that the problem wasn’t stemming from the hip and leg like Matt originally thought. In fact, it was originating in Matt’s back.

“That exercise apparently helped to loosen me up and improve the mobility of my leg, which then helped lessen my inflammation and pain,” Matt says.

Active, Once Again

“I was always so active – I run marathons, snowboard, and coach cross country for both my boys. So, when the pain really set in, I was terrified that my life was going to change and my lifestyle would have to be different forever,” Matt says.

“Thanks to Ryan and physical therapy at UPMC, I was able to get my life back. I’m so grateful to be pain-free again.”

After only a few weeks and four visits with UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, Matt was back to running, back at work, and enjoying other activities like snowboarding.

“I’ve seen firsthand the wonders that physical therapy can do, and I’m amazed that I felt completely healed in just four visits,” says Matt. “For the first time in years, I feel at 100%.”

For more information about outpatient rehabilitation at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, call 1-888-723-4277.

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.