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Enjoying the ride

Health
Margaret Jones is back to riding her tricycle after finding relief from debilitating back pain.

Margaret Jones is back to riding her tricycle after finding relief from debilitating back pain.

Margaret Jones slides with ease into the seat on her teal, three-wheeled tricycle, eager for a nice pedal around her Murrells Inlet neighborhood.
The 71-year-old grins from ear to ear as she takes in the sunny spring day. She appreciates a nice bike ride more than most.
Just a few months earlier, her trike wasn’t getting much use at all. Debilitating back pain – the kind that radiated down her right leg – kept her from living the full life she desired.
Her bike rides were infrequent – if at all. If she tried to ride, the pain would get in the way. Even daily tasks – vacuuming, washing the dishes – were too much for her. The pain, well, it just wouldn’t let up.

Margaret Jones enjoys a bike ride through her Murrells Inlet neighborhood.

Margaret Jones enjoys a tricycle ride through her Murrells Inlet neighborhood.

Pain medicines, anti-inflammatory drugs, over-the-counter pain patches and countless visits to her doctors in Virginia – where she lives half the year – yielded no relief. She would occasionally try an anecdote that would offer temporary relief of the pain brought on by disintegrating discs and arthritis, but it always came firing back.
She tried to just live with it, but what kind of life was that?
“It feels like someone is hammering on your back,” Jones says of the pain that had gotten substantially worse in the last two years. “Standing any length of time – anything normal you’d do, I’d do it for five minutes then I would have to go sit down. Now, I can pretty much do what I need to do. It feels really good. I could dance in the streets.”

Relief

Jones finally found relief from the pain after a visit with Dr. Brian Yee, an anesthesiologist and pain management physician with Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet.
Though Jones thought she had tried every possible remedy other than surgery, Dr. Yee mentioned the shots that have brought relief to some of his patients.
Results vary by patient – some might have relief for six months before needing another round of shots, while some may go for a year.
“Well, heck, I might as well try it,” Jones says. “If I get six months – that’d be great.”
The facet joint injections contain a mix of numbing medications and possibly steroids, depending on the patient’s unique pain issue. Unlike a general shot, these injections are made directly at the joint that needs relief, with X-rays helping pinpoint the area where the injection will be administered.

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The injection, known as a facet rhizotomy, basically calms down the nerves at the problem area, which relieves the pain. The injections are done in an office visit, with very little, if any, downtime.
“Now, with the latest technology it just makes sense to get the medicine exactly to the place where the patient needs it,” Dr. Yee says.
After completing weeks of physical therapy – the other component of her treatment plan – Jones received her first of two rounds of shots in early January.
“From the moment I got the first set of shots, it was like I was a different person,” she says. “I came home, and it was wonderful.”
During her first visit with Dr. Yee last year, Jones said her pain level on a scale of 10 was a solid 10. During her most recent visit in March, she told Dr. Yee her current pain level was a zero out of 10 – non-existent.
“That is remarkable improvement,” he says.

Many conditions treated

The injections are used to treat a variety of joint and pain issues and have brought relief for patients suffering from lower back, neck and other pain.
When considering whether a patient is an ideal candidate to receive shots, Dr. Yee assesses X-rays, MRIs and other diagnostic tests.
“You look to put puzzle pieces together to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan,” he says.
The injections have given Jones her life back. She received a second round of shots – one on each side of her back – in late January and has felt good since.
“It’s a funny feeling – you almost can’t believe it. You’ve lived with the pain for so long that you don’t know what it’s like to not have it,” Jones says. “It just gives you so much relief.

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Now, Jones is living that active life she wanted. She regularly rides her trike, goes to the beach or takes in the beauty along the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk.
She’s also careful to not push it too much. She stopped herself one time when she realized she still probably shouldn’t pull out her big vacuum cleaner when the small one would do.
“You have to watch. You can’t just think, ‘Hey, I feel so good I can do anything like I used to,” she says.
And she’s just genuinely happier. Constant pain – especially the kind that interrupts your daily life – can take its toll mentally, as well. Before finding relief through the shots, Jones was frustrated by her pain.
“I am a happy woman. I am a new woman,” she says. “It was just very freeing.”

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