Ben S. A Case of Mid-Back Pain
Ben Walked into my office back in 2006. Pain was etched on his face, he was walking slowly with a measured gait. One look at his face and you could easily see he was in pain. Ben was forty three at the time. Six months ago he had fallen unconscious just outside his home. His wife found him on the walk and called 911. Read More
He was transported to the hospital and found to have broken two vertebra in his mid-back (T5 & T6 in the thoracic region). The surgery was a success, however he was in pain after the surgery. He was put on pain medications in the first few months ranging from Vicoden to oxycontin. After the usual wait for surgical healing he went to physical therapy for three months. Neither of these options in Ben’s case reduced the pain, which was becoming more intrusive into his daily life. He had been out of work since the fall and was eager to return to work. He was an automotive engineer who was employed by one of the sponsors of formula one racing. When I evaluated Ben he had ,on his own, stopped his pain medications, and as he said they only worked marginally and he was apprehensive that long term use may prove to be physically addicting. Acupuncture as he told me was a last resort. This is common with many patients. Ben also was depressed about the lack of progress to reduce his pain. Over the months his sleep pattern changed to where he currently would wake numerous times during the night and would get little restorative sleep. He was always present when his children played games with their soccer team but could not concentrate. Ben told me that many times he felt that he would never be able to return to his active life before his fall. The loss of restorative sleep, the inability to concentrate and the onset of a more depressive mood are typical of long term chronic pain syndromes.
Ben and I made a plan to address all these issues with the obvious focus on pain reduction and elimination if possible. Ben understood after our discussion that Acupuncture as a therapy can address each of his concerns during the same therapeutic treatment session and wanted to start right away.
Based on my evaluation I expected that progress would be seen within four to six weeks at one session per week. The sessions would include both acupuncture and bodywork ( manual therapy). I used both full body acupuncture and a subsystem of acupuncture called auricular (ear) acupuncture. The theory is similar to scalp acupuncture (see Bob C. –Stroke story for more details), where the ear is a map for the whole body and very effective for specific pain problems. After the first session Ben felt a little better when he left. However , when he arrived the following week for the second visit, Bens eyes were markedly more outward looking. ( we tend to have that preoccupied gaze when pain consumes our thoughts). He immediately told me that during the week he began feeling less painful and where he indicated on the standard pain scale when we started, the maximum pain level, over the first week his pain had gradually reduced to about half of this. Ben was encouraged, and so was I. His second visit followed our therapeutic plan and I said I would see him next week. The following week he literally bounced through the door. He said , that’s it , I hardly feel any pain, I am sleeping through the night and my family cannot believe the change. The fathers and mothers at the soccer field asked how he managed to have thrown off his look of anguish from the pain and he told them “ACUPUNCTURE”. I myself was surprised at how quickly he responded after months of life absorbing pain. Ben came for one additional session the following week and he was done. Ben was certainly a poster child for the benefits of acupuncture.
I met Ben a bout six months later and he was doing just fine. He told me that he had lost consciousness again, this time in the presence of his wife. It turns out that he had a seizure. There were no anatomic problems and neurologist prescribed antiepileptic medicine. He has been fine ever since.