Back to Normal

Rehab device develops customized therapy to alleviate pain.

If you want a truly traditional Italian-style pizza, the kind you would get at a trattoria in Florence, Rome or Milan, you won’t get it by ordering from any brand-name pizza chains. You can, however, get one at Cafe Sapori in West Palm Beach.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Erik Pruneti

Since it opened in 2017, Cafe Sapori has been serving up a taste of Italy so genuine you’d think it came from a ristorante bordering Venice’s Grand Canal. Even its management staff and executive chefs are full-blooded Italian.

“We were all born and raised in Italy,” says Erik Pruneti, an assistant manager who hails from Florence, where he worked in restaurants from age 14 until a few years ago, when he traveled to the United States with his American-born wife.

After first living in Philadelphia, Erik and his wife ventured south to Palm Beach Gardens. It was shortly thereafter that he joined the team at Cafe Sapori, where he spent most of his second year struggling to carry out many of his routine duties.

“Our busy season here runs from November to May, but at the end of every busy season, even when I was in Italy, I always had a lot of pain in my arms and hands,” Erik says. “It comes from all the work I do, lifting heavy boxes of wine, moving tables, that sort of thing.

“After the busy season is when I take a vacation and usually the pain goes away while I’m on vacation. But last year, even after I took a vacation and went home to Italy for a couple weeks, the pain never went away.

“By the time the busy season came around again, it was really bad. I had pain, tingling and weakness in my left shoulder, arm and hand, and I’m left-handed, so I was having trouble gripping things. I couldn’t even pick up a bottle of wine with my left hand.”

After consulting with a doctor he knew from the restaurant, Erik agreed to undergo physical therapy in the hopes it would alleviate his discomfort. Physical therapy only made the situation worse. Erik’s next step was to take a health care tip from his wife.

“The doctor ordered an MRI, and afterward he suggested I see a specialist and suggested that I might need surgery,” Erik says. “But my wife had been to rehab at a place after she hurt her back in a car accident a couple years ago and said I should try them first, so I did.”

The clinic Erik visited is Active Health Center in North Palm Beach. That’s where he met Forrest Harvey, DC, who reviewed the MRI and determined that three herniated cervical discs were the root cause of the pain, tingling and weakness in Erik’s shoulder, arm and hand.

The herniations, Dr. Harvey explains, were causing Erik to suffer from a condition called radiculopathy, where a compressed nerve in the spine can cause pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness wherever that nerve leads.

In Erik’s case, that compressed nerve led down his left arm, which explains why he was struggling to do something as simple as hold a bottle with his weakened left hand. In response to his findings, Dr. Harvey performed a physical exam of Erik.

That exam included a test to determine the functional strength of Erik’s neck muscles. Those test results showed that Erik’s neck muscles were extremely weak, which prompted Dr. Harvey to recommend treatment using the Multi-Cervical Unit, or MCU machine.

Nonsurgical Device

Available exclusively at Active Health Center in North Palm Beach, the MCU machine is a nonsurgical device that isolates and strengthens muscles around the neck and provides a comprehensive assessment of physical progress during therapy.

A tool in what 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 customized 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.

According to Active Health Center, studies show that after receiving 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.

A single MCU session lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, with patients typically going through three sessions a week for nine weeks. During those nine weeks, 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 of the patient,” says Colin O. Behrue, DC, at Active Health Center.

“That shows us how well the patient is progressing, and based on the findings, we make clinical changes. The change could be different exercises, different angles or different weights that help the patient continue to improve and build strength.”

After nine weeks of therapy, patients are typically given a maintenance program that includes exercises they do at home to maintain their strength.

Feeling Better

After first visiting Active Health Center last October, Erik agreed to undergo treatment on the MCU machine in November. By year’s end, he was feeling much better and having a much easier time at work.

“The first doctor I saw told me that if I had the surgery, I would need to be inactive for six months, then do rehabilitation,” Erik says. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to visit Active Health Center and get a second opinion. I’m glad I did.

“Once I started the treatment on the MCU machine, I started feeling better almost right away. I would say after just a couple of weeks I noticed a difference, and by Christmas I was 70 percent better.”

Now more than six months removed from his treatment, Erik says his shoulder, arm and hand pain are a distant memory. He’s no longer having any issues carrying out his daily duties at work, and he has Active Health Center to thank.

“They did a great job, absolutely great,” he enthuses. “I’m very happy with the results of my treatment and delighted that I tried MCU therapy instead of agreeing to surgery. It could not have worked out better for me, because now I feel great.”

Family Matters

Leah Cuomo spends the majority of her free time following the personal endeavors of her daughters, ages 11 and 14, who are engaged in distinctly different activities.

The younger daughter, whom Leah describes as a “spider monkey,” has taken a liking to aerial silk, an acrobatic performance discipline in which the artist executes a series of maneuvers on a silk ribbon suspended high off the ground.

The older daughter has a far less perilous hobby. She’s into music. She plays the baritone and trombone, which Leah appreciates, in part because it doesn’t spawn as much stress as her younger daughter’s hobby does.

“They’re both entertaining, but I’d much rather watch a concert than watch my daughter climb those ribbons,” she says.
“Whenever she’s up there, I always have to hold my breath a little bit. But she’s got a great teacher, and she can really climb that thing.”

Leah, who works full time as an administrator at a law firm, is as active as her daughters. She especially likes outdoor activities such as bike riding and camping. Not long ago, aggravating neck pain cut deep into her active lifestyle.

“The pain started one morning last November when I woke up with this horrible crick in my neck,” Leah explains while recalling a trip to Atlanta. “We went to Stone Mountain for Thanksgiving to see the leaves change and enjoy some cooler weather. I was in pain most of the trip.

“The day I woke up with that crick in my neck, we went to the Georgia Aquarium. It’s mesmerizing, but there are so many things that are overhead there that it was just excruciating for me to look up at them or even turn my head.”

As many in her situation would, Leah simply fought through the pain thinking it would eventually go away. By the time Christmas rolled around, however, she was no better and was constantly having to compensate for the aggravation her painful neck was causing.

“I couldn’t turn my head, so when I was driving I had to turn my whole body just to see to make a turn,” Leah laments. “It was awful. Then one day, a colleague at work suggested I visit Active Health Center. So, I made an appointment, and as soon as I got there I knew I’d done the right thing.”

Regain Active Lifestyle

Leah’s first visit to Active Health Center resulted in a meeting with Dr. Behrue, who ordered a series of x-rays of her neck and spent most of his time learning about Leah’s medical background and explaining the treatments she might require.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Leah Cuomo

“It was more of an educational visit than anything,” Leah confirms. “But I was impressed with the time he spent with me and how he actually evaluated the way I was sitting and how my body was holding itself.

“He also explained that this was probably something that was not going to be resolved on its own, so I came back for a second visit. By then, he had the x-rays back and began doing some standard adjustments.”

Dr. Behrue’s decision to begin treating Leah through standard chiropractic care was based not only on the results of the x-rays, which showed she was suffering from a herniated disc with degeneration, but what he learned of her medical history.

“She had been in a couple of car accidents when she was much younger, so she had almost become accustomed to having some sort of neck pain,” Dr. Behrue reports. “For her, that pain became normal, so it never really stopped her from doing anything.

“But then this incident occurred, and now she was starting to get headaches and was experiencing a lot of radiating pain into her arms. To correct that, we started off doing some standard adjustments just to get some range of motion back.”

Those adjustments led to a slight improvement of Leah’s condition. It was then that Dr. Behrue tested her on the MCU machine and discovered that weakness in some areas of her neck was contributing to her discomfort.

At that point; Leah began treatment on the MCU machine. As it is with each patient, her treatment was tailored to her condition. Like Erik, she underwent a full regimen of treatments, which have completely alleviated her pain.

Like New

“I had to take a few months off from treatment because of the coronavirus, so I didn’t complete my work on the MCU machine until July,” Leah reports. “But now that I’m done, I feel great and have full range of motion.

“It seems almost crazy to me because I don’t know that I’ve ever really had that before, but Dr. Behrue told me, That’s not crazy, that’s normal. I still think it’s crazy, but it’s not; it’s normal, and I like normal.”

Leah’s new normal allows her to resume many activities she’d been forced to abandon, including bike riding with her daughters. She doubts she’d be doing that had her colleague at work not suggested she visit Active Health Center.

“We went on a five-mile bike ride the other day, so that tells you right there how much better I’m feeling,” Leah exudes. “I really didn’t realize just how much I was catering to the pain until it was gone. But like I said before, now I feel great.

“And I was so impressed with Dr. Behrue and everyone at Active Health Center that I even brought one of my daughters in for some therapy after she began to have some knee pain. Now she’s back to jumping around and dancing again just like always.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the care and treatment I received at Active Health Center. Dr. Behrue and all the doctors are really great, and the staff is just as good as the doctors. From the moment I walked in, I could tell they genuinely wanted me to get better.

“The whole team is great and for me, someone who is in office management, I really appreciate the systematic environment they have there. From the top on down, they really do care about getting you better, and they all work hard to make sure that happens.”

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    • Active Health Center

      If you have aches and pains from a motor vehicle accident, an old injury or a slip and fall, or are just feeling pain from the trials of daily life, Dr. Marc Weinberg and Dr. Colin Behrue at Active Health Center at Weinberg Chiro... Read More

    • Marc A. Weinberg, DC

      Marc A. Weinberg, DC, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida and went on to graduate cum laude from Life Chiropractic College in Marietta, GA. He is approved by the National University of Health Sciences to perfor... Read More

    • Colin O. Behrue, DC

      Colin O. Behrue, DC, completed his undergraduate studies in molecular/microbiology at the University of Central Florida and went on to receive his Doctorate of Chiropractic, cum laude, from Palmer Chiropractic College Florida in Port Orange. He... Read More

    • Forrest Harvey, DC

      Forrest Harvey, DC, completed his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Pennsylvania’s Westminster College before earning his Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, Florida. He treats patients of all ... Read More

    • Adam Holleman, DPT

      Adam Holleman, DPT, earned his undergraduate degree in exercise science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, VA. He received his doctorate in physical therapy from Winston-Salem State University. He performed research in biomechan... Read More

    • Sandy McLean, DC

      Sandy McLean, DC, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Northwestern Health and Sciences University in 1998 and earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the same school. She opened her first practice in Marquette, Michig... Read More