Tom Corr, 74, has spent the past 20 years with lower back pain, which medications and three surgeries didn’t resolve.
Today, he is free of the disabling pain that kept him from an active life — and he credits a new physical therapy program at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.
Movement, Mindfulness and Pain Science (MMAPS) is a class based on the brain’s role in pain and perceived pain, as well as physical activity (including Tai Chi and yoga) in a group setting. It is led by physical therapists Veronica Moresi and Sharna Prasad.
The class teaches that pain is the brain’s signal alerting the person to address certain needs, which may or may not include tissue damage.
The program offers mental tools such as meditation and visualization. Physical tools include walking and deep breathing exercises, which trigger the release of natural drugs produced by the brain that aid in pain control, perception and healing.
Corr’s back problems involved his vertebrae and discs pressing on his sciatic nerves going down his legs. He underwent two surgeries to relieve pain in his legs, and another to fuse three vertebrae. But his pain persisted to the point where in February 2017 when he had to crawl from his bed to the kitchen. His wife, Tina, got him into their truck to get to the hospital. Tests revealed a large disc that had ruptured and resulted in a bulge pressing on his spinal cord and associated nerves.
“I was given the option of more surgery, or physical therapy and walking,” he said. “I was told that the surgery had about a 50-50 chance of relieving the pain, whereas if I walked and did physical therapy, there was a 70-percent chance my body over time would ‘consume’ the bulge without surgery. In the meantime, I would have to cope.”
Corr chose walking and physical therapy. He was assigned to Moresi and Prasad, who enlisted him for the eight-week MMAPs program. He has since completed the program twice, and now he volunteers with the class to encourage other patients.
He noted that the instructors asked everyone to give the program a chance. “I did, and it worked for me. Each day, I increased the distance of my walks. By the end of the second week of class, I was walking up to three miles again!"
Today, Corr goes for daily walks up to seven miles and rides his motorcycle together with his wife. He recently loaded and unloaded three pickup loads of logs for firewood—all without further back pain.
Would he recommend MMAPS to others? “Absolutely. It feels great to have less and less pain; and I truly thank my therapists and the tools that they presented to me.”