It’s All In The Details

Comprehensive, proper physical assessment reveals cause of disabling leg pain.

Back in the fall of 1964, when General Motors rolled out its 1965 line of Pontiacs, a small number of the GTO and LeMans models were finished off with an iridescent lavender-like exterior paint color known as iris mist.

Treatment at Regional Rehab has John walking on his own two feet again.

Also called Paint Code P, that purplish hue was never used again on any other model produced by Pontiac. That’s why the factory-painted iris mist 1965 LeMans that John Finan owns is considered a collectors’ item.

“It’s a stock LeMans, but the motor, the transmission, the interior and that iris mist paint color are all original,” John explains. “That car also has about 105,000 miles on it, but if you take it out and drive it, it’ll keep up with traffic just fine. It’s a really great car.”

A self-proclaimed “car nut,” John also has a silver 1965 GTO that he rebuilt himself. He says he’s “put a fortune” into that restoration project, which he completed while suffering through some disabling health issues.

Among them was a back injury so severe that it required major spine surgery. And while that 2010 procedure alleviated John’s pain, it left him with a pinched nerve that all but disabled his right leg.

“At first, I was in a lot of pain with that leg,” John remembers. “But after a while that leg got so bad that I could only walk short distances on it. If I tried to walk too far, my leg would get weak, give out on me and cause me to fall.

“The doctor wanted to put me in a wheelchair, but I didn’t want that, so I started walking with a cane. The thing is, I’m 79 years old, but I don’t see myself as 79. I’ve got a life to live, so I’ve been hobbling around with this cane for 10 years.

“I’ve tried for about eight years to get help for this problem. But none of the physical therapy places I tried were able to do anything for me. They tried all kinds of treatments, but nothing ever made it any better.”

John’s health worsened recently when his weakened leg sparked a fall that damaged his right shoulder. Ironically, it was while treating John’s shoulder that someone finally resolved his leg problem.

That remedy was found at Regional Rehab in Spring Hill, where Charles C. Donley, PT, and Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD, thoroughly assess each patient’s entire well-being, not just the specific complaint for which the patient seeks treatment.

Assessing the Whole Patient

“What Paul and I and our entire team do here is collaborate to make sure we’re reaching the whole issue of the patient,” Charles explains. “Sometimes the patient brings those issues up and sometimes we bring it up because we’re seeing the deficit in them.

“That’s how it was with John. After our individual evaluations, Paul and I collaborated like we always do, and we asked each other if there was anything else we could be doing for him. We both mentioned the issue we saw with his gait.”

What Charles and Paul noticed immediately was John’s significant limp while walking. They also noticed he struggled to push off his right leg and was very unstable, even with a cane.

After learning the history behind John’s problem, Paul discovered a severe muscle weakness in John’s right leg; “laziness” in the nerves, which were not functioning optimally; and a lack of balance.

To correct those problems, Paul recommended treatment using three advanced modalities: the Class IV deep tissue therapeutic laser, the HIVAMAT® 200 deep oscillation therapy device and electronic muscle stimulation (EMS).

“Everyone there works as a unit to make sure they’re doing as much as they can for people.” – John

The laser uses specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal cells. It works by releasing nitric oxide, which removes congestion and swelling, promotes rapid healing and reduces discomfort while increasing blood circulation.

The HIVAMAT 200 creates gentle impulses that relax muscles and penetrates all tissue layers to remove inflammatory byproducts from cells that cause pain but are not part of the cells’ natural makeup.

EMS stimulates, or “wakes up,” the static muscles and nerves, allowing patients such as John to exercise their legs and rebuild strength, balance and function.

When John first started treatment in August, he could not stand on his toes, walk heel-to-toe or push off his right foot. As a result, he was falling several times a day, despite using a cane for stability.

After six weeks of balance therapy and treatment geared toward waking up the nerves in his right calf, foot and toes, John regained the ability to stand and push off his right foot. In addition, he was able to safely walk short distances without a cane for the first time in years.

Walk This Way

“John lives alone on a large piece of property, and his primary goal was to get to a point where he’s safe, can work on his cars, care for his lawn and do different activities without a fear of falling,” says Brandi Girard, PTA, a physical therapist assistant at Regional Rehab. “He’s there now. He can now walk on uneven surfaces such as the grass without his cane and walk longer distances without pain and without a cane. That’s because he’s able to push off properly and bear weight with that foot again.”

“I have definitely come a long way from where I was,” John concurs. “This is not something where two or three treatments heal you. I went almost 10 years without being able to use that leg, so the recovery is slow. But it’s working.

“That’s because the people at Regional Rehab took the time to investigate the real cause of my leg problem. Everywhere else I went, all they wanted to do was address the problem, not the cause. That’s why I never got better.

“There’s a noticeable difference in what I can do with my feet and legs now. I can actually curl my toes again, which is what allows me to walk heel to toe the way I’m supposed to. That’s why I say the people at Regional Rehab are just fantastic.

“Everyone there works as a unit to make sure they’re doing as much as they can for people, and they all have such great attitudes. It’s a great place to go for treatment because they do a great job and they always make you feel very comfortable.”

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    • Regional Rehab

      Regional Rehab's ultimate goal is to enrich people’s lives by helping to enhance their physical and mental well being, creating an atmosphere of quality care and optimum healing with a loving touch.... Read More

    • Charles C. Donley, PT

      Charles C. Donley, PT, is the owner of Regional Rehab. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy, graduating cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh. He served on the board of the Hernando County United Way, is a d... Read More

    • Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD

      Paul A. Ernandes, PT, PhD, joined Regional Rehab in April 2018. He previously was director of physical therapy at Vitality Physicians and Rehab and spent 10 years as director of rehabilitation at Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville. He has also ... Read More