• Full speed ahead - How Rhea got moving without pain and back to being active


    May 29, 2018

    "HAVING somebody say, ‘Let’s try to keep you as active as you want to be, even at your age,’ and having somebody who understands that I’m a really active person was fantastic,” says Rhea Nowak, 55, of Oneonta.

    After a test revealed “cam” or hip impingements and some osteoarthritis of the hips, Nowak needed help getting back to her active lifestyle, which includes mountain and road biking, swimming, yoga, skiing, and hiking. That help and understand- ing came from Kate Grant, DO, an orthopedist and nonoperative sports medicine specialist at Bassett Healthcare Network.

    Dr. Grant took a conservative approach to treating the prob- lems in Nowak’s hips. She worked closely with Nowak, suggest- ing a regimen of physical therapy for both hips and an injection into the right hip to get her back to her daily routine, which includes exercise three to five days a week.

    Nowak says her right hip felt much better with physical ther- apy, and the injection definitely made a difference. With her right hip squared away, she was feeling good enough to cross-country ski. Then came a stumble in her recovery: Last January, she took a “wide world of sports fall,” injuring her left hip, which sent her to the emergency room and then back to Dr. Grant."

    Just Like Magic

    Nowak was referred to a physical therapist who sees a lot of active people and knows how to help them push past their limitations.

    Dr. Grant says the therapist was able to get Nowak a lot of relief. “[The physical therapist] gave me a bunch of exercises that I do religiously, and that’s made an enormous difference in both hips,” says Nowak. “Doing the physical therapy feels sort of magic in a sense. I do 45 minutes a day, but it’s like, wow, every day there’s a little less pain.

    “My mom has had both hips replaced, so it might be in my future,” she notes. “But I’d like to put it off as long as I possibly can—or not do surgery at all and just stay with physical therapy and activity. That would be the best. But right now, it’s so nice to be moving around without pain, I can’t even tell you—it’s really lovely.”

    A Word of Advice

    “Be a self-advocate and look for a doc- tor who is willing to work with you to get back to the activity level that you want— not just functional, but really healthy,” says Rhea Nowak.

    “Dr. Kate Grant was fabulous to work with. It was a huge difference to be able to work with somebody who says, ‘Keep going; you’ll get back to where you want to be.’”

    Excerise is Medicine

    “There’s a national initiative by the North American Spine Society, a campaign called ‘Exercise is Medicine.’ And it truly is,” notes F. Todd Wetzel, MD, Chief of Orthopedics at Bassett Healthcare Network.

    “Not only does exercise help increase cardiovascular fitness, it helps increase blood flow to muscles, releases chemicals called endorphins that give you a sense of well-being and a higher pain threshold— the benefits are enormous. People need to look at exercise as more than simply a way to stay in shape and ensure a healthy lifestyle. What you’re really doing is treating musculoskeletal problems with the appropriate exercise. That can be done in a supervised environment, such as with a trainer. Other times, you need more expertise: an occupational therapist for an upper extremity problem or a physical therapist for post-op rehabilitation or a spine problem. But, the point is, exercise is medicine—and it’s serious medicine.”

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