By Kate Vander Wiede

Dr. Tyler Foster and PPT’s Smithfield clinic helped Jim recover after back surgery

Jim Winsor had been struggling with back pain for years. At 68, Jim suffered from degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition that causes compression of the spinal nerves, leading to severe leg and back pain and difficulty walking.

“I couldn’t stand still in one place for more than a minute or two because the pain in my back was so severe,” Jim recalled of his condition. “I thought I was pretty much done. I didn’t have much hope.”

With little to lose, Jim decided to get back surgery to improve his condition – doctors rebuilt his spine with four steel rods toward the end of 2017. The surgery immediately relieved much of his pain, but the next step was a regimen of physical therapy to strengthen his back, core and legs, improve his balance and help manage lingering pain.

Jim came in to Performance in January hoping that, maybe, physical therapy would improve his pain and allow him to start working again. For 14 years, Jim had been a custodian in the Johnston School System, and prior to that he’d worked at Sears, owned his own business, and worked in a variety of other capacities, things he wasn’t able to do with the pain and mobility issues he had.

At PPT’s Smithfield clinic, physical therapist Dr. Tyler Foster got to work with Jim, meeting with him twice a week. To help with Jim’s restricted hip movement, Dr. Foster did mobilizations where he would stretch and move Jim’s hips. He had Jim start doing static and dynamic balance exercises to help his lower body re-learn balance and improve his walking gait. To help Jim get back to some of his favorite hobbies – like brewing beer – Dr. Foster incorporated exercises where Jim would pick up heavy objects with differing feet positions to practice balancing and lifting from unstable positions.

Jim progressed quickly. After about three visits, his pain had lessened, and within six weeks, he was able to walk with a more normal gait, and able to handle walking up and down stairs, something he couldn’t manage before without extreme pain. Jim said that Dr. Foster helped to motivate him. “Tyler listens to what you’re saying and doesn’t push too hard,” he said.

Noting that other physical therapy clinics he’s been to have been very de-personalized, Jim praised Dr. Foster and exercise specialist Kimberli Lynch for their kindness and compassion. “With Tyler and Kim, they made sure I knew what I was doing, and why, and they made sure I was comfortable. They make you feel like you are somebody,” Jim said, “and that means a lot.”

As for what’s next, Jim will continue physical therapy for a few more weeks. And as the weather improves, he’s looking forward to using his new strength and balance to take his grandkids out to hike some nature trails with him and his wife.

The change in his life, from both the surgery and physical therapy, has left Jim feeling thankful, and has restored his faith in his own abilities. He said both Dr. Foster and Lynch helped him realize anything is possible. “They both made me realize that there’s nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it,” he said. “I’d lost sight of that because of the constant pain I’d been in.”

In sharing his story, Jim hoped to reach others who are in a position similar to the one he had been in prior to surgery and physical therapy. He had a message to those folks: “Keep pushing. Don’t limit where you are.”