Grounded No Longer

Injured flight attendant to soar again thanks to therapy on MCU machine.

Though it’s not as glamorous as it’s sometimes made out to be, working as a flight attendant for a major airline certainly has its perks. That’s especially true for those who work international flights the way Becky Ramirez does.

Rebecca Ramirez riding her bike.

Becky calls MCU therapy a “godsend” because her neck has
“never felt better.”

Becky has served aboard international flights for 30 “wonderful” years and has been all over the world, from Atlanta to Athens and Toronto to Taipei. She loves visiting new places and discovering new cultures, but being a flight attendant also has its difficulties.

For starters, the hours can be brutal. And pushing a cart loaded with 200 pounds of canned soft drinks up a narrow aisle is never fun. Neither is dealing with that guy who insists on shoving both of his overpacked carry-ons into an already stuffed overhead bin.

There’s also some danger. Becky found that out firsthand six years ago, when she was one of five crew members onboard a landing jet that skidded off the runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, stopping just short of Flushing Bay.

“We were in winter whiteout conditions, and it was uncontrollable,” Becky remembers. “We went off the runway and hit the embankment right before the water. When we finally came to a stop, the cockpit was actually hanging over the water.

“I was working the tail cone that day, which means I had the last seat on the plane, and when you’re going 150 miles per hour and suddenly veer off the runway, you get thrown around a lot in your seat. Afterward, I felt like I had hit a brick wall.”

It wasn’t just Becky’s body that got shaken up. Recently divorced, in the middle of a move to Florida and on the cusp of her 50th birthday, her mental well-being took quite a hit, too. As a result, she spent four months rehabilitating.

“I was a mess. I was more worried about my mental health than my physical health,” she confides. “I should have been taking care of both, but I focused mostly on getting myself right mentally and getting back to work.

“I did go through some physical therapy, but once I got to the point where I could open the doors to the plane and do what’s physically required of me, I was released to return to work. I still wasn’t quite right physically because I’ve had issues ever since.”

Becky says those issues began with general soreness throughout her neck and shoulders. In time, the discomfort became more intense and irritating. When it became persistent and aggravating, Becky began seeking treatment.

She first tried massage therapy, which provided little relief. She then tried traditional chiropractic care, and while that provided a temporary respite from her symptoms, it did little to resolve the issue entirely.

Frustrated, Becky gave up all of her in-office treatments in 2019 and turned to some at-home remedies using devices that claim to alleviate bothersome neck and shoulder pain. That, she says, proved to be a big mistake – her pain intensified in January 2020.

“I can’t remember exactly what I was doing at the time, whether I was vacuuming the house or raking leaves in the yard, but all of a sudden I was in serious pain, and my left arm just went numb,” Becky recalls.

“I also started to experience a lot of tingling in my arm. I immediately called the airline, which said, Go straight to the emergency room, which I did. While I was there, they took x-rays and a CT scan and came back and told me I had cervical radiculopathy.”

Nonsurgical Device

Cervical radiculopathy results from a compressed or pinched nerve in the neck. It can be caused by arthritis, a disc herniation or degeneration of the cervical spine, but it is treatable.

To get that treatment, Becky turned to Active Health Center in North Palm Beach, where a team of doctors confirmed her condition and wasted little time in testing her on a Multi-Cervical Unit, or MCU.

Active Health Center is the only provider in South Florida offering treatment on the MCU, which is a nonsurgical device that isolates and strengthens muscles around the neck and provides a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s physical progress during therapy.

A tool doctors refer to as evidence-based medicine, the MCU records 16 ranges of muscle movement for strength to determine the areas of the neck where there are weaknesses, imbalances or a loss in range of motion.

Once that data is revealed, a treatment program is designed that allows the MCU to correct those problems. Considered the most complete, efficient system for assessment and rehabilitation of the neck, the MCU has proven to be a highly effective instrument.

Studies show that after MCU therapy, patient pain levels decreased by 66 percent while strength levels increased by more than 70 percent, with more than 90 percent of patients making a full recovery, according to Active Health Center.

An MCU session lasts 20 to 30 minutes, with patients usually going through three sessions a week for nine weeks. During that period, patients are retested at least three times to determine the effectiveness of the treatments.

“We retest the patient every three weeks, or nine visits, and compare the results of those tests with the results we received from our original examination,” says Colin O. Behrue, DC, at Active Health Center. “That shows us how well the patient is progressing. Based on the findings, we make clinical changes. The changes could be different exercises, different angles or different weights that help the patient continue to improve and build strength.”

Do As I Do

After nine weeks, patients are typically given a maintenance program that includes at-home exercises to maintain strength. Becky is in the maintenance phase now, several months removed from her first experience with the MCU. Due to delays caused by the coronavirus, that didn’t occur until March 2020, when she was tested on the MCU.

Based on the results of that test, she began treatment on the MCU immediately after.

“When they first tested me, the doctors were all in agreement that the problem was stemming from weakness in my neck,” Becky reports. “That made sense to me because I was literally having trouble holding my head up. I was compensating in other areas because of the weakness in my neck. That’s why I was in so much pain.

“Proper neck strength was the missing link, so the goal was to get my neck strong so that I could rehab the rest of my body.”

Becky’s pain and discomfort began to diminish shortly after beginning treatment on the MCU. However, when her first course of treatment was completed, she still had not developed the neck strength desired by the team at Active Health Center.

“They told me the right side of my neck still wasn’t strong enough, and the left side was going to overcompensate for that,” Becky explains. “That led to another three-week session. Let me tell you, it really was the missing link.

“This treatment was like a godsend to me because my neck has never felt better. When I first went to Active Health Center, my neck was curving, my shoulders were rounding, and I couldn’t lift five pounds with my left arm. It was all because of the weakness in my neck.

“Now, my neck is strong. I can hold my head up, and my posture is good again. I’m still retraining all of the other muscles in my body, but I can do that now because the muscles in my neck are strong again. I have Active Health Center to thank for that.”

A Real Head-Turner

Gesenia with her daughter doing jiujitsu. .

Treatment on the MCU machine is allowing Gesenia to learn jiujitsu with her daughter.

It wasn’t long after her 10-year-old daughter began taking jiujitsu classes that Gesenia Quinones decided to take her own deep dive into the martial arts discipline. Her desire to improve on some self-defense techniques was at the heart of her decision.

“Jiujitsu is similar to the self-defense classes I used to take, and I really like that aspect of it,” Gesenia says. “But I could also see that my daughter was really enjoying the classes. The more I watched her, the more I thought to myself, I want to do that.

“My daughter started taking the classes about a year ago, and I started taking classes five times a week last June. It’s something we’re enjoying doing together, which is nice.”

Gesenia, 38, appreciates the classes even more now that she’s finally free of the nagging neck, shoulder and arm pain that almost prevented her from jumping into jiujitsu in the first place. The issue, which regularly brought on a severe stiff neck, went on over six years.

“I have no idea what triggered the pain. I don’t remember anything traumatic happening during my childhood nor was I ever in a major car accident or anything like that,” Gesenia states. “At first I thought I was sleeping the wrong way because I’d wake up and not be able to move my neck. It actually happened so much that I got used to it.”

The injury worsened a couple of years ago to where she couldn’t move her neck at all. She sought treatment with a rheumatologist, but nothing was resolved.

“The doctors couldn’t figure out why this was happening,” she remembers.

“After starting jiujitsu, something happened that really made me nervous. While performing some of the moves, I got this tingling and numbness all the way down my arms and into my fingertips, which made it hard to get out of certain situations.”

Gesenia didn’t suffer through tingling and numbness only while practicing jiujitsu. She experienced them two or three times a week even while going about her normal daily activities.

That raised even greater concerns and sparked another search for a remedy. She tried ice, heat, ointments and even standard chiropractic adjustments, but nothing worked. Then in September, she got a tip from someone in her jiujitsu class.

“Dr. Behrue’s niece does jiujitsu, and we train together,” Gesenia shares. “One day she said, You should go see my uncle. He’s a chiropractor at Active Health Center. So, I canceled my membership at the other chiropractic office and went to see him.”

Dr. Behrue began his care for Gesenia by ordering an MRI, which showed that her pain and discomfort were largely a result of several herniated and bulging cervical discs, including a couple threatening to pinch her spinal cord.

“He could also see on the MRI that the muscles in the back of my neck were deteriorating,” Gesenia adds. “They were wasting away. When he saw that, he told me that most doctors would recommend surgery, but he recommended the MCU machine.”

Gesenia’s first experience with the MCU was a test to determine the strength of her neck muscles. The results showed them to be extremely weak and set the course for her treatment, which she received three times a week for nine weeks.

“At first, I was a little intimidated by the MCU. It’s a big machine and has this halo that they put on your head,” Gesenia states. “As I went through the testing and saw how the machine works, all that scariness went away. After that, I thought, I can do this.”

Faded Symptoms

Gesenia was astonished with the results. After three weeks of standard chiropractic adjustments following an MCU treatment, the tingling and numbness in her arms and hands faded away.

“It was the same with the stiff neck,” she adds. “The pain started to go away about three weeks after I started on the MCU, and it continued to get better and better. Now, I’m completely off the MCU, and I continue to do exercises at home that they recommended.

“Those exercises help me strengthen my shoulder and back muscles, which helps me maintain the posture I need to keep my neck strong. I feel so much better now, better than I have in a long, long time. I can turn my head from right to left without any pain, which is something I hadn’t done in years. Dr. Behrue even joked with me about that, saying he feels safe driving behind me on the road now because everything is OK.”

Gesenia divulges that she’s getting ready for her first jiujitsu competition.

“I’m feeling great. I can’t wait for that,” she exclaims.

Becky is just as happy as Gesenia. She’s on the brink of returning to her job and says she probably wouldn’t had she not discovered Active Health Center and the MCU.

“When I talk about my experience, I get a little emotional because I’m thrilled that I found Active Health Center and ecstatic to be out of pain,” Becky concludes. “I love them. They’re all great people and they provide remarkable care.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Patient photos by Jordan Pysz. Office photos courtesy of Active Health Center. mkb
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