When Mark Doebele, a Physical Therapy Assistant at Teton Therapy in Wyoming, woke up one morning with a stiff neck that spread to his upper extremities, his life came to a halt. As someone who works with his hands and must frequently devote his energy and attention towards relieving his patients’ pain, he knew he couldn’t go on too long with pain and numbness in his arm and hand.
Here’s how diagnostic procedures, Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Study (NCS), performed by a physical therapist at Teton Therapy helped save Mark from weeks of waiting and an expensive, unnecessary surgery.
Read this Q & A in our PT Made Easy Blog with Physical Therapy Assistant Mark Doebele who works in Riverton, Wyoming.
More Than a Feeling – A Q & A with Mark Doebele
Question: What was the issue you were having that made you seek medical attention?
Answer: I woke up one morning in December with a stiff neck, and over the next few days it got progressively worse with symptoms going down into the arm, pain, numbness and tingling, and loss of strength. It eventually made it down into my hand and middle finger. It became so painful, and nothing would help relieve the pain. Over a few weeks, I couldn’t work. I had X-rays taken which showed that my disc space had gotten smaller, which affects the nerves. I thought for sure that I was heading down the road for surgery and fusion of the vertebrae.
Question: As a Physical Therapist Assistant, that must have been difficult to function without the use of your arm. How did your injury impact you at work?
Answer: I lost strength in the arm and hand, which made it difficult to do my job like I am used to doing. We do a lot of hands-on care. I couldn’t concentrate very well on patient care because I was in so much pain.
Question: How did it affect your daily life?
Answer: It really affected my sleep, with my not being able to get comfortable at night, which in turn made me fatigued throughout my workday. I was grouchy and not able to do things around the house.
Question: Did you try any other medical interventions before asking Sarah Flatt, a physical therapist at Teton Therapy, to perform an Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Study (NCS).
Answer: Chiropractic care calmed it down some, but it returned within a few hours and almost made it worse at times. Other than that, the other options were X-rays and anti-inflammatory medications.
Question: How has having direct and immediate access to diagnostic procedures such as an EMG and NCS helped you?
Answer: It let me know that I didn’t have nerve damage and that the irritated nerves would get better in time, which it has. I avoided surgery! With physical therapy, it is almost back to normal now.
Question: What would you like people to understand when seeking diagnostic procedures such as Electromyography, Nerve Conduction Study, or Diagnostic Ultrasounds?
Answer: It gives you peace of mind, as well as lets you know where the problem is right away. It helps get to the root of the problem, rather than waiting on and paying for other interventions that might not help.
I want my patients and the community to know about diagnostic testing and the benefits of imaging in a nontraditional setting, like your physical therapist’s office. The testing located the true “why” of what was occurring, and helped me heal faster, save time and money, and get back to what I love doing, which is treating our patients.
Here’s to Your Continued Success,
Dimitrios Kostopoulos, DPT, MD, PhD, DSc, ECS
ABPTS Board Certified in EMG/NCS Testing
Clinical Affiliate Assistant Professor FAU
College of Medicine
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