I was at a physical therapy appointment recently and I was discussing all that I was doing to treat my
recent low back injury. After verbalizing out loud everything that I was doing, my physical therapist
made the joke that I’m taking the “pro-athlete” approach. And it is kind of funny to think that was
the impression.

In the beginning of the injury process, I had a lot of difficulty finding any sort of relief whatever I tried. I
initially was doing all conservative methods – things that I do with my patients on a daily basis. Didn’t
work. I incorporated acupuncture. Didn’t work. I did massage. Didn’t work. Eventually, I needed more
help. I was prescribed steroids for inflammation, medication for nerve pain, and medication to help me

It wasn’t until I broke the inflammation cycle and was able to get some sleep, I FINALLY was able to see
some relief. Once that happened, I was able to resume acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy,
and chiropractic and experience more substantial relief. Over the course of the next 4 weeks, I went
from contemplating having neurosurgery to deadlifting with moderate weight. Over 8 weeks, I was
ALMOST fully recovered.

I was extremely adamant about getting back to work and full function ASAP, but above all else, I wanted
to avoid surgery. Now, I fully understand and advocate that there is a time and place for everything. And
if surgery was the correct course for me, then it is what it is. But regardless, I was going to throw
everything at this injury to make sure I exhausted all options before undergoing the knife.

It is somewhat comical that my PT made the joke that I’m taking the “pro-athlete” approach, but
realistically, this is a prime example as to what health care really should be. It should be a team
approach. There should be a progression of events, in which the patient is triaged appropriately, and if
something doesn’t work on its own, maybe incorporate another form of care or co-management. There
are cases in which, yes, surgery should happen sooner rather than later, but I was not a true surgical
candidate. Therefore, the approach is to exhaust all other options first.

Unfortunately, having this type of approach can be costly – thus the “pro-athlete” approach, but
ultimately, it’s the approach that all of us should be able to take.