While working as a training specialist with developmentally disabled adults, Sandra Lawson sustained a painful neck injury when a client suddenly grabbed her by the hair and yanked her to the ground. The injury caused vertigo and constant pain, leaving her unable to work or enjoy her previously active lifestyle. She couldn’t snow ski, ride a bike or even drive her car due to the debilitating pain and dizziness.
Determined to return to work, Lawson tried every doctor’s recommendation. From physical therapy, 14 different medications and massage therapy to epidural injections, chiropractic care and hypnosis, she improved some but not significantly. She even tried antidepressants when a doctor suggested her symptoms were psychosomatic.
"They looked at me like I was nuts," she says, explaining that she had depleted her savings seeking relief from the pain and dizziness. "I had pretty much exhausted all of my funds."
Even spending time with her grandchildren had become difficult, says Lawson, because the constant motion exacerbated her vertigo. "I was to the point where I pretty much couldn’t do anything. I would lift the detergent to a do a load of wash and within a half hour I was sick and dizzy. I didn’t go anywhere. I was thinking I would never get back to work."
Then she saw a new doctor who recommended the Pain Clinic at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute. At St. Luke’s, she says, the staff worked together as a team to assess and treat her pain and injury. Meeting with a physical therapist, psychologist, occupational therapist and vestibular specialist, she received a whole-person approach to pain management and recovery.
"St. Luke’s brought it all together," she says, describing how the multidisciplinary approach was what she needed. "They were very supportive. They all work together so well. If somebody spotted something that wasn’t their expertise they were quick to get the one who was the expert. They were so professional and so good. I was just so impressed with them. I wouldn’t have gotten back to work without the multidisciplinary approach."
It was especially helpful, says Lawson, when biofeedback showed that her muscles tensed not only during exertion, but after exertion, a discovery that explained some of her symptoms and paved the way to treat them.
Through the multi-pronged therapy she learned how to prevent and soothe pain through posture, relaxation, breathing and exercise – all with a supportive staff to oversee the process and ensure she didn’t cause any further damage.
"I worked out all day in the pain clinic. I could exercise and then if I had a flare-up there was somebody there to help me through that. They check you out as you go. They know if it is something bad or something you need to work through. Having the assurance you need to work through it helps you relax."
Since completing pain therapy at St. Luke’s, Lawson has been able to gradually return to the active lifestyle she loves. "I actually was able to go skiing this winter. I absolutely love to ski. I never thought I’d be able to do that again. I’m able to drive again. I can ride a bike again."
Lawson also improved enough to go back to work. "I got my job back. That was really important to me," she says, noting the Pain Clinic made it all possible. "There is no better place to see exactly what you can do when you have somebody there who can help you through anything."