Controlling Neck Pain
The story of Dr. Gregory Luna

After a waterskiing injury, vascular surgeon Dr. Gregory Luna had two spinal surgeries and a four level neck fusion over the next two years.

While he was left with some pain, for several years was able to control the discomfort with a mixture of rest, massage, stretching, cervical distraction and the warm heat of a whirlpool. Then, in the spring of 2009, after a long work weekend, he experienced pain and numbness that wasn’t relieved by the normal methods.

“It didn’t respond to rest and heat and stretching and distraction and massage,” says Dr. Luna who is unable to tolerate pain medication.

Dr. Luna had epidural injections and deep tissue massage, which he says had always helped in the past. But this time, he says, “It didn’t provide relief.” That’s when he was referred to Dr. Goodman for Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) therapy at St. Luke’s Physiatry Practice at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

He began IMS treatment with Dr. Goodman which uses thin, flexible needles to stimulate and relax tightened muscles and promote healing. “It gets your attention. Something really was happening. You feel the grab and the muscle release,” said Dr. Luna. By the fifth treatment, “It was pretty obvious that it was helping and it was allowing muscle relaxation.”

He continued to use other forms of therapy, such as stretching and massage, that have helped in the past. With those efforts combined with the IMS, he says “I don’t hurt as much.”

One of the biggest differences Dr. Luna noticed after starting IMS treatment is his ability to sleep. “I can sleep through the night without pain. That was not the case before receiving IMS treatment. That has been a real positive,” he says, explaining that before laying down was so painful that some nights he had to sleep in a recliner with his neck at 90 degrees. “I was waking up three to four times each night with or from discomfort.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, Dr. Luna says his pain had been an 8 or 9 and now is down to a manageable 3. “I’m comfortable sitting now,” he says. “It allows you to see there is a future you can manage.”

IMS therapy, says Dr. Luna, has been a learning experience. “It has changed my understanding of what is necessary to minimize the discomfort and maximize the function. It is not just bone and nerve irritation damage or inflexibility. Obviously, there are dozens of little muscles that help your spine stay mobile, flexible and functional. It makes sense now.”

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