Physiatry helps woman get rid of pain and back to life

April 22, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

Jeanette Nachich got used to living with osteoarthritis through the years.

“It was tolerable and didn’t interfere with my functioning,” she says.

In addition, she delayed any surgical treatment options while she cared for her husband, Dr. George Nachich, who had cancer. Dr. Nachich passed away in 2013.

At that point, Jeanette, now 83 years old, could wait no longer. The disease had primarily affected her knees, but had also worsened in her shoulders because she was using her arms to get up from and sit in chairs.

“I had no recourse but to do surgery,” she says, recalling that the pain prevented her from performing day-to-day activities that required lifting her arms.

Ryon Hennessy, M.D. and Daryl O'Connor, M.D., orthopedic surgeons with Orthopedic Specialists and Elmhurst Hospital, performed four procedures — two knee replacements and two shoulder replacements — at six-month intervals over two years.

“I’m very pleased with the surgeries,” says Jeanette, a resident of Oak Brook. “My knees and shoulders are functioning great.”

But, the osteoarthritis was also affecting Jeanette’s spine, which caused pain to radiate down her legs.

“The pain was so bad, I couldn’t walk,” says Jeanette.

That’s when Brian Couri, M.D., a physiatrist, entered the picture.

Physiatrists, physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, evaluate and treat patients with short- or long-term impairments and disabilities that result from neuromusculoskeletal conditions (neck or back pain, or sports or work injuries), neurological conditions (stroke, brain injury or spinal cord injury) or other medical conditions.

“To do this, we perform such tests as electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies; diagnostic ultrasound of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves,” says Dr. Couri. “We also read and interpret MRI scans and X-rays; perform diagnostic and therapeutic injections into the spine, other joints and muscles, and nerve blocks; prescribe precise therapy for your specific illness and prescribe medications to help you to function better.”

Physiatrists work closely with other neuroscience experts and a team of healthcare professionals that may include physical therapists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, psychologists, social workers and others. Together, they develop a non-surgical treatment plan that’s specifically designed for each patient’s unique situation and needs.

In Jeanette’s case, Dr. Couri determined that, as a result of the degenerative effects of the osteoarthritis, Jeanette was suffering from lumbar radiculopathy (pain caused by a nerve in the spine that’s compressed), herniated discs (when the sponge-like substance between vertebrae bulges or ruptures) and spondylolisthesis (when a vertebra in the spine slips out of place).

“The treatment of Jeanette consisted of taking a detailed history of her medical condition and functional status, doing a detailed examination of the nerves, muscles and joints affecting her low back and legs, reviewing her MRI scan, and developing a treatment plan specific to her condition,” says Dr. Couri. “Jeanette’s treatment consisted of spinal injections targeting the worst area of her spinal stenosis and getting her into specific physical therapy to address this issue. She was also prescribed medications to help with her pain. To date she has done quite well.”

“Dr. Couri is fantastic,” says Jeanette. “He has a good bedside manner and takes time to explain things. I feel I’m in good hands with him and he understands what’s going on.”

And, bottom line, she’s gotten relief from the pain, which she calls a “miracle.”

“I’m fortunate that I can walk in the neighborhood and play with the grandkids.”

Learn more about physiatry at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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