PT Solutions helps treasury agent avoid shoulder surgery

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For Treasury Department Special Agent Kristie Gregoire, working a full-time job is just half of her workload. She also is a full-time mother.

With a running task list and a cup of coffee in hand, Kristie takes on the balancing act of a demanding career and devoting quality time with her son. One task that Kristie performs numerous times a day is getting her two-year-old son in and out of the car with his car seat — a simple task at first blush. However, over time, this repetitive activity resulted in a serious shoulder injury she was completely unaware of at the time.

At the beginning of 2014, Kristie started to feel a sharp pain in her shoulder. She didn’t think much of it, so she pressed on despite an increasing level of pain. The pain persisted and intensified for nearly a year until she couldn’t get a good night’s rest. By that point, she decided to talk to an orthopedic physician who suggested that she might have a torn rotator cuff. He recommended her to a specialist who could provide more insight.

After meeting with the specialist, Kristie was informed that she would likely have to have shoulder surgery in order to regain full function in her shoulder. To help avoid surgery, the specialist suggested physical therapy. Kristie began going to a local physical therapy group for about three months, but her rotator cuff never healed. She suffered from excruciating pain and didn’t understand why her shoulder wasn’t improving.

Knowing that there had to be room for improvement, Kristie went back to the specialist for more answers. After a closer look, Kristie learned that she had three injuries to her shoulder: a torn rotator cuff, a torn biceps muscle, and bone spurs. Kristie’s specialist explained to her that surgery was necessary to alleviate the bone spurs, so in June 2015, she decided to undergo surgery in the hope of regaining function in her shoulder. She needed to have full strength in her shoulder to take care of her son and to perform in her line of work, which was proving increasingly difficult.

The surgery went well, and Kristie initially had a great recovery. She didn’t experience the typical pain that most people do after such a major procedure. She began physical therapy again with the same practice, but soon became dissatisfied with the level of care she was receiving. Her pain increased to a level that exceeded her threshold — beyond the level of pain she had even before her surgery.

She understood that the she would have to endure some pain during her physical therapy, but this was more pain than she had ever experienced in her life. When she discussed the issue with her physical therapist, she did not receive explanations as to why she was suffering from such a high level of pain.

Kristie only had a short amount of time before she was due back to work and she knew that she couldn’t return in the condition she was in. She decided to follow up with her specialist to see why she was experiencing so much pain, and to see if she could find a better physical therapy practice to work with.

When she visited the specialist in August 2015, the specialist was shocked to see her limited range of motion. He diagnosed her with frozen shoulder and gave her an injection that day to help ease the pain. Kristie asked him to recommend a new physical therapy group and that is when he sent her to Kevin Duffy at PT Solutions at Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine.

The specialist informed her that if she didn’t regain her range of motion within two weeks, she would be facing an additional shoulder surgery. The doctor ordered her to report for physical therapy that day so that she could stretch out her shoulder.

With this new sense of urgency, she was greeted with a plan for her recovery and answers to the questions that her previous physical therapy group left unanswered. The initial pain of the first session was almost unbearable, but Kristie knew that it was necessary to avoid a second surgery. She worked with Kevin for two weeks, the sessions lasting 90 minutes, and reported back promptly to her specialist.

Her doctor was pleased with the improvement and informed Kristie that she had successfully avoided surgery because of the work she did with Kevin and PT Solutions.

Kristie continued to visit Kevin several times a week from August to December. Kevin modeled Kristie’s physical therapy after what Kristie does for a living. As a Special Agent, she is required to carry a weapon and to stay up-to-date on defensive tactics in the field. Kevin simulated these tactics by having Kristie use a NERF gun and by showing her how to properly use her shoulder while holding her weapon.

Kevin developed a plan that included stretches, massages, dry-needling, strength-conditioning, and core-building to regain Kristie’s range of motion. Kristie learned that core exercises were integral to her recovery, as these reactionary muscles are a catalyst to strength and performance in other areas of the body.

At the end of December, Kristie’s range of motion reached 99 percent and her pain was gone. Once again, she was able to perform the duties necessary for her job and to enjoy time with her growing son.

It was a feat that Kristie said would not have been possible if not for Kevin and PT Solutions.

“I am so grateful because I would have had a second surgery without searching for a physical therapy group committed to patient care and success,” she said.

If you or a family member has a limited range of motion due to a shoulder injury, PT Solutions can help in your recovery. Call us at 1-844-REHAB04 or come into one of our clinics today.