Norman's story
 Norman's story

    Stenosis, palsy

If Norman's life after 60 were a board game, he would have landed on every bad space possible. There was the cancer space, the severe cervical spinal stenosis space, the go-directly-to-hip-replacement space, the go-back-3-for-shingles space and – perhaps most annoying of all – the slide-back-to-start-for-palsy space, which prevented him from making beautiful music on his trombone.

"My eye and mouth were drooping, and all of a sudden I can't play my trombone," says Norman, a former college trombone instructor with extensive professional performing experience. "I can't get a sound out."

Many excellent clinicians helped Norman overcome his medical misfortunes, including Mayfield's Robert Bohinski, MD, PhD, who performed a delicate decompression and fusion procedure (ACDF) on Norman's neck at C 4-5 in 2011 and a decompression procedure on his lower back at L 3-5 in 2014. Without the cervical surgery, Norman might have suffered paralyzing consequences in a fall or fender-bender.

But the current heroine of Norman's story is Lisa Cleveland, PT, Mayfield's Director of Physical Therapy, who arrived in the board game of Norman's life as a get-out-of-pain card when he needed it most.

Norman, in his mid-70s, came under Ms. Cleveland's care after he began to experience additional problems in his neck. Dr. Bohinski, reluctant to operate again unless absolutely necessary, referred Norman to physical therapy.

Norman arrived at Mayfield Physical Therapy with neck pain, hip pain and continuing palsy on the right side of his face, the remnants of his bout with shingles. Ms. Cleveland prescribed exercises for his hip and back, then offered an idea.

"She said, ‘Have you ever had dry needling?'" Norman recalls. "I said I had not. She did some needle work on my neck and lower back and leg. It was amazing. I went from uncomfortable to feeling absolutely nothing. It was as if I'd had surgery or something. And it was the first time since my first surgery with Dr. Bohinski that I had felt this good.

"And then I was about to leave and she says, ‘Norm, I'm curious. You can say no, but what about the possibility of doing some dry needling on your face?' I had regained a lot of function on my right side, but my trombone playing was not great. I didn't mind playing with my students, but I couldn't play with the beautiful professional sound that I'd had all my life."

At Norman's next visit, Ms. Cleveland treated his hip and back as usual, then performed the dry needling procedure on both sides of Norman's face, addressing the palsy on the right and the remnant of a freak injury on the left.

Photo of Norman in his music room

"There were some minor discomforts, but generally you don't feel it," Norman says. "And when you do feel it, there's good reason. It means the needle is obstructed and there's tension there that needs to be released. After the first session, literally, I went home and that afternoon I picked up my trombone. It was a teaching day, and I played a high F. I said, ‘Oh my, what's going on? It was the most beautiful sound, a sound I hadn't heard in 20 years. I called Lisa and told her, this is amazing."

Norman had eight treatments, then cut back to a monthly maintenance program.

"I'm very thankful for Mayfield," he says. "My quality of life has improved 98 percent. To be pain-free is one of the most incredible experiences in your life."

Acknowledging his age, Norman has given up a few things, such as yard work and any chore that requires a ladder. But he remains active. In addition to teaching music students, he's a regular on the tennis court. "I'm extremely active physically," Norman says. "I'm in a really comfortable holding pattern. If I take care of myself, I may never need another surgery."

If it were a game of Monopoly, one might say Norman had won the free parking jackpot.

>> more hope stories

Hope Story Disclaimer -"Norman's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.

Related links:

Dr. Robert Bohinski

YouTube Video: Dry Needling for Treatment of Neck and Back Pain