Fran’s severe pain was building.
“First, I suffered whiplash from an automobile accident a couple of decades ago,” recounts Fran, “and then I threw a Christmas tree at my husband and knocked five vertebras out in my back.”
She laughs. “We were trying to take the tree out the door, and I couldn’t lift it high enough. My husband is six foot one and I’m only five foot two. He had it way up above my head when he said, Lift it up. I tossed it, let it go, and was down sideways.”
Fortunately for Fran, she had been seeing Jeffrey P. Johnson, DC, of Johnson Medical Center in Venice, since 1988.
“Dr. Johnson had been out on his boat,” she recalls. “He came back to his office on a Saturday afternoon to put me back together.”
However, as time went on, Fran’s scar tissue and muscles began tightening up.
“I could not get out of pain,” she remembers. “Even getting out of bed in the morning was horrible, and I had to lift my legs and hold on to something just to slip on a pair of slacks. I had no flexibility at all.
“I worked fulltime at Publix in the deli department, but with the demands of my job I finally had to move to a different department and cut back on my hours.”
Fran says that, in addition to her other problems, an MRI found a spur in each of her heels, on her lower back, and on her neck, along with a bulging disc: “They were all causing me extreme pain, so I followed my insurance company’s protocol of pain management. I had four epidurals in my lower back within a year, which is the maximum, and I was on constant pain pills. I would take about three pills a day just to get through an eight-hour shift.
“Then in 2007, Dr. Johnson suggested MUS.”
“For the majority of patients, conventional treatments including chiropractic, physical therapy, pain management techniques, and back surgery are successful in helping to relieve patients’ pain,” educates Dr. Johnson. “However, for those patients who are simply not responding successfully to these techniques, there is another, noninvasive solution. That treatment is MUS.”
Candidates for the MUS procedure may include those with unresolved neck and back pain, frozen shoulder, acute and chronic muscle spasm, nerve entrapment, herniated discs, sciatica, headaches, or failed back surgery syndrome.
“Fran had adhesions and scar tissue in her lower back that didn’t allow her spine to move and function properly,” explains Dr. Johnson. “In Fran’s case, typical daily activities were enough to result in localized pain and inflammation. With the inflammation, part of the body’s natural healing process is to lay down a mesh of fibrotic tissue, commonly known as scar tissue [see sidebar]. Although this tissue is beneficial, some patients naturally form an excessive amount of it while others suffer repeated injuries or recurring chronic conditions that can cause layer upon layer to form in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the joints, restricting the joints’ ability to move.
“Over time, the joints can become more and more restricted and limited in their normal range of motion. In Fran’s case, her MRI confirmed that she was a candidate for MUS.”
With MUS, doctors can take the affected joints through their normal full range of motion while the patient is under light sedation, freeing the adhesions that have occurred between the joints that are causing the patient’s pain.
“With the patient sedated, we are able to use light stretching techniques,” educates Dr. Johnson. “Because we don’t have to fight against tense, guarded muscles, we are able to free up the scar tissue and mobilize the joints without causing the patient any discomfort. This would be impossible to do without the use of sedation.”
The MUS procedure is repeated once daily on consecutive days, usually within a time frame of between two and three days.
“During the procedures there are generally multiple doctors present, including the anesthesiologist, and several nurses,” notes Dr. Johnson. “It is definitely a team approach.”
Typically there are six to eight weeks of follow-up rehabilitation following the treatments to reinforce the movement obtained from the procedure. During this time, patients are instructed on how to perform stretching exercises to prevent the condition from returning.
“At that point we try to release our patients,” explains Dr. Johnson, “placing them on a strengthening program to rehabilitate the muscles around the regions that were addressed during the procedure, thus preventing their condition from returning.”
“Dr. Johnson thoroughly explained MUS to my husband and me,” recalls Fran, “but I wanted to research it myself, which I did. I knew that back surgery was my next option, and I wanted to avoid that.
“Finally, in February of 2008, I said, Enough is enough. I’m not living on pain pills anymore.
Fran scheduled her MUS treatments, which were covered by her insurance.
“Since I’ve had the MUS, I can slide out of bed with no pain at all,” she says. “I can jump right up, sit cross-legged, touch my toes with my hands flat on the floor, and almost do the splits again, keeping in mind I’m fifty-four years old! It’s amazing.
“I also worked in the deli two days last week to try it out, and I did great. I had no pain at all in spite of some bending and lifting the job requires.
“I can ride my bike again, and my neck is no longer stiff in the morning.
“I am just so flexible and getting more so as the days go on.
“Dr. Johnson and his staff are fabulous, very professional, and if an emergency comes up, they are always available. They come in early, stay late, and do whatever it takes. They are there for their patients, and that means a lot to me.”