Back in January of 1998, while sailing in the British Virgin Islands, I attempted to weigh, or lift, the anchor back onto the deck of our chartered sailboat. The power winch was broken, so I sat with my heels on either side of the anchor rope, leaned all the way forward, grabbed the line in both hands and yanked.
That began a 15 year journey with chronic lower back pain and sciatica. I had caused a Sacroiliac Separation. Stretching ligaments which created instability in my core. That instability forced the muscles to have to do the work of the damaged ligaments. The pain from that felt like a sword, stabbing into the joint.
I went for shots.
I went to a Chiropractor.
I went to other physical therapists.
I discussed surgical options.
At 33 years old, I had to stop doing some of the things that I should have otherwise been able to do, or suffer the consequences. Golf was excruciating…so I stopped. Even bowling. But, at 33 years old, I refused to stop the things that were so important to me. I coached baseball for several years while my son was growing up, ignoring the pain that swinging a bat or throwing a ball would cause. I continued to do yard work, mowing, raking, mulching, planting beds, etc. Paying the price with severe spasms that, many times, left me writhing on the floor later…scaring my wife and our kids. Even the long hours at my desk and commuting were excruciating, but I had to work. I refused to let that injury stop me. I just dealt with the pain.
In 2013, when a bicycling mishap reinjured my back, I had to seek treatment again. My PCP sent me to Dwight Hartman for treatment. Dwight carefully evaluated my injury, testing range of motion, strength, flexibility, etc. Much like any PT would do. But what Dwight did do, that others before him hadn’t, was two things. He crafted a treatment plan that targeted the specific issue, and convinced me the importance of continuing the treatment at home, between sessions.
The results were not instant. It took a few weeks to start feeling improvement. Over time, with regular sessions, and my commitment to doing my “homework”…I started to notice an incredible change in the way I was feeling. The constant chronic pain had finally subsided. For the first time in 15 years, I was pain free.
For the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed the freedom that comes from being free of pain. I’ve done substantial projects around my house, not the least of which was building a retaining wall (something I never would have tried during the 15 years of pain). I continue to do the exercises that Dwight gave me, and I can tell if I’ve gone too long without doing them, as that “sword” starts to make its way back into the joint. When that happens, it’s back to the gym, and I’m back in business.
I still don’t golf…I wasn’t that good to begin with, so I don’t really miss it. And I still don’t bowl…not a great loss. I don’t coach baseball anymore either, but I can go out and have a catch with my son without fear of the stabbing pains returning. And at 52 years old, I climbed Mount Katahdin in Maine, hiking 10 miles of treacherous trails, including the famed Knife Edge.
I will always credit Dwight Hartman with turning things around for me. His compassionate focused attention to making me better cured me. My only regret is I didn’t meet him sooner.