John Pikunas woke up three months ago with excruciating pain radiating from his upper back to his chest.
The 57-year-old charter bus driver still isn’t sure what caused it but suspects it may have stemmed from lifting customers’ luggage.
“It was kind of scary,” the North Myrtle Beach resident said. “It only happened when I sat down, but I sit down for a living.”
Trying to figure out a solution, Pikunas consulted with four different doctors but experienced no lasting relief. Steroid injections sometimes helped temporarily, but the pain always returned whenever he got behind the wheel.
“After all these failures, I pretty much thought nothing was going to work,” he said. “It started to feel hopeless.”
His prospects changed after he was referred to Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services in North Myrtle Beach. During his second visit, he was connected with Frank Moreno, who is certified in an increasingly popular form of physical therapy called the McKenzie Method.
Within a few more visits, Pikunas’ pain was gone – completely.
“I keep waiting for it to come back, but it hasn’t,” Pikunas said. “It’s really incredible.”
Moreno said he’s helped dozens of patients eliminate or reduce pain using the McKenzie Method since he earned certification in February 2016. He’s one of only four certified McKenzie physical therapists in Horry and Georgetown counties, according to the McKenzie Institute, USA website.
The method is helpful addressing both chronic pain and pain caused by an acute injury, Moreno said. It differs from other forms of physical therapy because it empowers patients to prevent the pain from returning rather than having to rely on repeat visits with a doctor, chiropractor or other clinician.
“Our goal is to address the underlying cause of a patient’s pain and develop a specific set of exercises or movements to help prevent it from returning,” Moreno said. “We want people to get back to their normal routines.”
North Myrtle Beach resident Ricky Paschal for two years dealt with intermittent severe neck pain that often led to headaches. Nothing seemed to help.
“It was debilitating pain,” said Paschal, 61, of North Myrtle Beach. “Once it started up, your day was done. You could take all the Advil you are allowed to take but it wouldn’t ease it off.”
He tried massage and got help from chiropractor, but the pain always returned within a week or so. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a bulging disk and encouraged to try physical therapy.
Within five visits with Moreno, the pain vanished.
“I’ve had zero problems since my last session in December with Frank,” Paschal said. “I’ve definitely benefited. It’s so simple I can’t believe it.”
The first step of the McKenzie Method is an evaluation of the patient’s posture, range of movement and how the patient’s pain responds to certain types of movements, Moreno said. From there, the therapist builds a program of different types of corrective exercises and movements.
Moreno said most people respond to the therapy within five visits and no longer need regular appointments, saving them time and money. Instead, they are encouraged to continue preventive movements and exercises at home to help ensure the pain doesn’t return.
Although extremely effective for some people, the McKenzie Method is not for everyone, he said. Other types of interventions will be more appropriate for some patients.
But in many cases, the therapy can make a major difference in the patient’s quality of life, he said. He frequently helps people like Pikunas and Paschal, who have struggled to find relief with other approaches.
“Nobody wants to suffer through pain,” Moreno said. “It’s incredibly gratifying to help someone find relief and return to their day-to-day activities.”