Update and Physical Therapy Question

Updated on September 11, 2019
T.D. asks from New York, NY
18 answers

My husband has been decent to me and kids. So nothing interesting there.
I have been to a dr, been in for tests, seen a specialist. The result is medical bills and a suggestion to pop more ibuprofen along with physical therapy. (So spend more money for something that may not work since it only has a 50% chance of working)
Just frustrated by this answer and out of money to try to find real answers.
Does physical therapy work for pain that one has had for several years? Can anyone share physical therapy stories?

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So What Happened?

pain is in hip and back. Had X-Ray which showed degeneration of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. There is degeneration of the hip and pubis symphysis. Was sent for MRI of hip and lumbar region (two areas of highest pain) there is a displaced lumbar disk, and a labral tear in my hip.

There is (according to the radiologist report) 2 protruding disks, a third that is protruding and torn pressing on the nerve. Along with the spinal degeneration. Add that to the hip tear and now I see why I have tingling, weakness, pain and stiffness. My Mom is friends with a surgeon that went to school for spinal issues. She is showing him the reports and getting his opinion. Before I start therapy. I hope something works because I am tired of being in pain.

Insurance is high deductible then it becomes co-insurance. So even after deductible i will still be paying for much of the cost. It sucks but it's the insurance we could afford based on the 3 options thru work. The kids qualify for state insurance. And we are not in New York. We live in a much less helpful state and do not qualify for help.

The pt is 12 sessions over 6 weeks. If things are not feeling better after that then there will be a referral to an ortho. Hip tears don't heal on their own and surgery is about a 50% chance of working. I have done tons of research.. I know my disks will never be the same (I have had scoliosis since I was a teenager too which is part of the cause of all these issues) and after researching the therapy exercises for this I am curious as to how they will do it since half the hip exercises are no-no's with a bad disk.. And some of the disk stuff is a go-to with the hip... I will be sure to keep you lovely ladies updated

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answers from New London on

I know a few ladies who are over 70 and have major pain (Back, neck, hip, leg). They go to a Community Center and walk "Laps" in the pool. 2x a week the physical therapist goes to their pool and they do PT in the pool. It has been so helpful for them! With that being said, some of the best Drs are in NYC !

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Dallas on

I am glad to see your update is more positive about your husband. I hope things continue to improve for you and your children.

As for PT, it depends on your pain and what is wrong. It can be very beneficial.

On 12/26/18 I fell and broke my right arm in such away that I had to have emergency surgery with 2 plates and 9 screws to hold things together. Prognosis was that I'd likely not gain 100% use of my arm again. Strangely enough, another woman about my age and physical shape had the same ER surgery just before my surgery. The Dr said this injury is rare and they see it 1-2 times a year and here it was 2 on same day. She was given the better prognosis.

Fortunately, I have not had pain at all which is a HUGE plus. I don't know why. I do know pain up until surgery was the worst I'd ever had in my life. NO pain pill they gave me worked.

In Feb, 2019, I started PT 2x a week as well as detailed home exercises. I was released from PT in May with almost 100% use. The only thing keeping me from 100% is the hardware which limits movement (stretch arm straight out). I was very determined and worked very hard for my results. My understanding from the Dr is that the other patient is not as fortunate as I am and she does not have 50% use back yet.

In October, I am having hardware removed and back to PT to finish up recovery. I know I am very fortunate. I took everything the PT tech said to heart and I worked hard.

Each time I was there, I saw people with back issues and I honestly don't know the prognosis or if PT helped them. Most were older than me (57).

If your insurance pays for PT, it would be worth a try in my opinion. You learn different exercises that can help to stretch and relax. At first, my insurance did not cover it and I did cash pay $75/visit. In April, insurance kicked in so that helped.

I am sorry you are in pain. I am the type to not want to take any RX or over the counter meds. I'd be worried with long term use of over the counter pain relievers. They can damage your stomach and liver.

I would say to try PT at least for a month or so to see if you get improvement. Best wishes to you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Maybe you can have your hip replaced if it's that bad? I know people who have had surgery to replace the bad discs as well. Talk with your doctor.

they can do micro surgery too. If you are truly in New York? There are several Spine Institutes in New York. If you're not in NY? Then search for your state.

I would strongly suggest getting the hip replaced and work with a orthopedist who specializes in spines and hips.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It depends upon what is wrong with you.

Physical Therapy is designed to improve mobility, strengthen your area needing strength.

If you have knee trouble? it COULD help.

Personally I would get off the pills. Yes. I know that tylenol isn't "bad" but over use can hurt your kidneys and liver.

GO to ANOTHER doctor. It would really help to know WHERE you are in PAIN and what the issue is.

When I was a teenager - I hyper extended my knee. Physical Therapy was given and I strengthened the muscles around my knee and in turn, got movement and flexibility back AFTER surgery. This is the same knee that I just had replaced. Prior to surgery, I had physical therapy again to get the movement back (I twisted my knee walking my dog in the snow). PT has helped me with my recovery so far. I have a lot of scar tissue around my knee and I had a blood clot that has hampered my recovery.

Don't be cryptic. Tell us what is going on and what body part is the problem.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

If you can, try to find an Osteopathic Doctor (the abbreviation is D.O. after the name), specifically one that does manipulation like a chiropractor does. An osteopath is a fully certified medical doctor who also treats spinal/muscle pains, conditions, etc.

I was in an accident after college (a serious one) and still had a lot of pain years later. By chance I met someone at work who had gone to an osteopath, so I went. Even though it had been years, the osteopath figured out the problem and the pain went away (with treatment, not immediately of course).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's such an individual thing. PT helped me a LOT when i damaged vertabrae, back in my late teens. not sure i'd have walked again without it. but that was a trauma, not long-term pain.

i recently got PT to try and help with a weird but non-painful thingie in my collarbone. it sticks up at a super odd angle. worked it and worked it, but it never went back to its original position. doesn't hurt at the moment, but it probably will in the future. but i can't see getting surgery for something that's not bothering me other than looking weird.

if ibuprofen and PT are the only suggestions, you might try something like yoga, which is just so dang good for the body as a whole. i agree the 50% is frustrating, but also worth a shot.

except you need that money to get out. it's nice that your husband isn't being a super-prick at the moment, but you know he's going to, right? i'm concerned about you on all levels, but that's still my main worry.

i want you and your kids outa there.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You could go to PT once or twice to learn what exercises and stretches you should be doing and then do them at home. Many people are not disciplined enough to do this though.

PT greatly helped me as I was recovering from knee surgery. I just attended for my ankles however and achieved no improvement at all. So very frustrating!

Over the years, when I have had back or neck pain I have successfully treated myself by simply googling “sciatica PT exercises” or “PT neck stretches”. Having said that, my issues were muscular and I did not have specific diagnosis like you.

Best of luck! I too live with pain...it’s not fun.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have herniated discs in my lower back. At times I have been flat on my back from pain. So I understand. I go to a chiropractor regularly. I tried physical therapy but it just made me hurt more. But I know that's not the case with everyone.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

To answer your question, yes, PT helps. Give it a whirl!

I'd be concerned about WHY so much damage - you sound relatively young and that much degeneration seems unusual. I'd want to not only get relief, if I were you, but figure out the root cause and how to prevent further damage and restore these areas to health, if possible. I'd wonder if this is a side effect of a medication, a sign of a nutrient deficiency, etc. Some medications and medical conditions can block the absorption of key nutrients you need to maintain bone health, like calcium or vitamin D.

I also love chiropractic for aches and pains and have found it highly effective for my occasional back pain, but I don't have the degeneration that you have so I can't opine on whether or not its safe for someone with your issues, but I'd look into that as well.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

So I have had two back surgeries. I'm thankful that I did.

My first one was to remove the "monster" bulge that was pressing on my spinal cord. I was in so much pain prior to the surgery. I never wanted to have back surgery and was scared to death BUT when your doctor sees your MRI and is stunned you are still standing, I'm thinking there is a big problem. By the time I did the surgery, I had no feeling in my right leg. I was lucky, I did recover the majority of feeling in my legs. However, I don't feel one of my toes. I can live with that. :)

The second surgery was in the same spot. Generally 80% of the population will have excellent results with a discectomy I did until the remining disc collapsed about a year and a half later. I basically could not walk. Went to my doctor, had shots in my back at my request because I needed to get everything in order to have a fusion. I was out of work for about 5 weeks which is short time. I recovered well.

Why do I tell you all this? I believe in PT. I loved my aquatic PT for my back. It was amazing. Your doctors might be hoping that with PT you will improve and won't have to have any surgery.

Try the PT. You can get the exercises and do them at home. My son is in PT for a partial rotator tear. Also try a chiropractor. One of my co-works goes to an acupuncturist.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

it might help if we know where you lived so we could tell you our experiences with health care in our area(s).

If your kids qualify for state care, maybe you do too. I don't know. It would be worth looking into.

I would get a 2nd opinion and work with a doctor on payments. Sounds like you need to have some discs done and hips replaced. PT will help with those but not alleviate all the pain due to your disc issues.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi Tadpole,

Thanks for updating us.

I’ve had joint pain and muscle injury pain.

Joint pain, for me is cyclical. I believe it is pre-arthritis (as does my doctor). This diagnosis was not obvious and was an educated guess based on blood work and symptoms. And the odd luck that my doctor’s wife was going through something similar. A second opinion might be warranted for you.

So I am watchful of what I eat, drink LOTS of water, and try to stay active. Some foods do trigger my joint pain, so I avoid them and just make healthier choices. A nice evening walk does mind and body good. When my kids were young I went right after dinner or early in am before kids were up.

I also had lesions on my back muscle from an injury (40 year olds should not use a volleyball spike move to get down a spider web when they haven’t used said muscles for about 20 years, just sayin’). This hurt for over a year and I could barely use my arm. The pain progressed. Finally saw my doc, who diagnosed and sent me to PT. The therapist showed me some exercises to help. Didn’t really care for the facility (thought they tried to pack in clients and preyed on the lonely sore elderly) but once I routinely used the exercises at home and became more active the lesion healed up. But it took about a year of dedication.

Glad you and kids are safe for now. I wonder if you have been able to educate yourself on the cycle of violence. It might help to understand the pattern.

I also hope you have been able to get yourself some emotional support.

Stay safe and keep moving toward your goal of keeping you and your children safe.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It's hard to say - PT helps a lot of people with a lot of issues, strengthening muscles in the problem area, increasing flexibility with stretching and so forth. Most of the exercises can be done at home after a few visits if you really learn the proper technique so you do them safely and properly.

I'd be concerned about that much ibuprofen after so many years. That has side effects and it's an unnecessary expense if it's not working.

Another thing you might consider is a pain clinic. They are in every major city, and in other places as well. Research the major hospitals in your area and ask your doctor for a referral. Your insurance will cover a lot of it. You might get some cutting edge techniques and procedures.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Both my son and I have done PT for our arthritis in our knees, and it has helped us both tremendously. But it is not a quick fix and that, I believe, is why it fails for so many. You have to continue to do the stretches and exercises at home every day, or at least most days, from now on to see long lasting results, just like with any kind of exercises.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Oh man.. so sorry!

You are in NY- you have access to the best drs in the world.. see if you can find a specialist. Look, do your research and ask around. Do your own reading and see what worked for most. Deal with most severe first.
Is there a way to stop and reverse this degeneration? That’s basically what the question is. With other conditions.. labral tear needs surgery. No amount of physical therapy can repair that. Displaced disk might be helped with chiro .. I think that’s a bit better vs physical therapy. My x had pain management at his office, he was a chiro. ( he also did extensive studies and was certified mua- manipulation under anesthesia) also very specific physical therapy. Heat lamps, cool massages, those wax bath for arms and legs. ( forgot what it’s called). He sent many people to do stretching and exercises in a pool- for those that needed improve mobility and build strength without stress on joints..in water it’s easier on the joints. Also had acupuncture and so on. he was a crappy hubby but unfortunately a great specialist! Lol so my point is keep an open mind on things.. dr me needs to adjust and keep an open mind as well on updated material.

As far as physical therapy.. I had it when broke my arm and they “sped up the process” to get me back to norm. Now I was a healthy teenager and the pain they cause my arm was ridiculous.. ( omg and the swelling!) after 2 sessions I refused to go. Eventually I got better and obviously fine by myself. It might have taken longer but like I said I was a healthy teenager.

I think money well spent is where there is a treatment and if it can actually help you.
Don’t give up.. you might need to do some research but well worth the time. Plus make sure you have all the copies of tests and results and visits.. this way you do not need to repeat anything if you go to a new specialist.

I hope you find a great specialist to help you soon!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

What kind of pain is it tadpole, if you don't mind me asking (joint, muscle, etc.?) or is it both?

Or is it nerve ... we have had both in our family, so I could relate better if I knew. You can message me if you like.

I have some pain and went to PT, it can be alleviated by stretching - so PT just helped me to know the proper techniques. Also, proper posture helped me. My PT helped me with that - she was excellent and also gave me on the spot mini massages. She saw where I had knots, and would work them out. She gave me tips on how to do that at home.

My take-away was to use a little semi-hard ball (I use one that my kids used from ball hockey, kind of spongey and small and fits into the little spaces in my back) to lie against, either against a wall or on the floor, and press into my back - and hold there in knots, until I can feel the pain subside.

I used PT when I hurt my knee as a child. I had to build up my leg muscles. It just helped because I ended up with a weak knee, so my quads were strengthened. I didn't have pain though - just weakness.

My husband has had surgery and went in for PT for a joint. It did help, while he did it. You have to keep up the exercises of course. He did a bath (?) there. He continues to have some pain and needs ibuprofen.

My husband also has nerve pain related to a disk in his neck - so he uses braces the physician recommended. He can't do stretches for those. Those help with sleeping and work.

If you want to message me - please feel free :) Glad that things on the homefront are better tadpole

ETA: As per your SWH

So my husband has the degeranative disk thing - his is more in his neck area and upper spine. I don't think PT helped him.

My mom has degenerative disk disease lower spine to mid - and I don't think she did PT. She tried stretching etc. but I don't think there was much she could do.

My friend has a tear in her hip and lots of hip pain - she gets cortisone shots, and my husband gets these in his arm (can't remember what for) - and those help tremendously - have you heard of those???

You get once a year or so and they can be very helpful with joints I think.

I have no idea if that would help you, but it was the PT who recommended them and I think may do them. So even if PT exercises don't help you - injections might. So might be worth going. Good luck and keep us posted. I'm sorry you're in pain.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I was super annoyed a number of years ago, when I was prescribed PT for a shoulder/back issue. However, I did go, I did everything they said (even the exercises at home), and I was amazed at how well it worked. Like others said, it isn't a quick fix, and you have to be dedicated to making it work.

As far as the costs go, I'd be very upfront with the PT person about how many times you can afford to visit and get as much info about doing stuff at home in between appointments. Maybe they can make them far enough apart (assuming you are doing your homework religiously) that it won't be too much of a financial burden.

Good luck - and I echo what Suz says about your hubby. It's only a matter of time . . .

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I have about the same back problems as you...as well as severe disk degeneration in my last disk. Physical therapy has helped me a LOT, but it's been a long slow road. I sometimes wonder if I should have just done surgery. Anyway...I try to do my PT every day at home and it has been 5 years. I have improved a TON. When I'm having bad pain I have to back off, rest a lot, and take it easy for about 5 days and then I can start doing PT again. I have to be very careful all the time. The PT exercises (I do at home now...so not seeing a therapist anymore for this although I did see about 3 different people in the past) really help a lot if I do them every day.
I have a positive PT story...I also began having severe knee pain about the same time. My doctor wanted me to focus on my back first so I just limped around and ignored it and took ibuprofen if I could not sleep due to a throbbing knee. After 5 years (this summer) I got an xray (which saw nothing) and then started PT for my knee. After 6 weeks of PT the therapist suddenly realized it might actually be my back and not my knee! She explained to me how the nerve from the left side of my back (my bad side) could be inflammed but it runs down to my right knee and I could be feeling the pain there. She had me start doing some stretches that open up the left side of my back, and BAM! my knee pain totally went away! Now when it shows up again I know to do those stretches.

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