Be Well: Breaking Through the Glass Slipper
The 75-year-old woman arrived at Dr. Stacy Boone-Vikingson’s chiropractic office, feeling extremely down. She had unrelenting pain and was dejected because she could no longer dance. The woman, a former professional dancer who continued doing ballet well into her 70s, injured her back after falling on the ice. Despite seeing other clinicians, she was still in significant pain one year later.
She connected with Boone-Vikingson at the Northwestern Health Sciences University Bloomington Clinic in 2019, hoping to find a provider who would really listen and understand what she was experiencing. She yearned to return to dancing, but she wasn’t making strides in her recovery. The woman had severe lower back pain, with the pain radiating down her legs and into her groin. She rated her pain a nine out of 10—a high number for a chronic injury, Boone-Vikingson notes.
The woman’s medical doctor tried to prescribe medication, but she favors holistic treatments and generally avoids such drugs. The patient also sought care from a physical therapist and a different chiropractor, but she did not get the improvement she wanted. The message she received, essentially, was that she was going to have to live in pain.
“She didn’t really feel like she was heard by her providers,” Boone-Vikingson says. “As a result of all of this, it had her feeling depressed. She didn’t want to do anything. She had stopped dancing for a year because of the injury and because she didn’t feel the joy in it anymore.”
When the woman first visited with Boone-Vikingson, she expressed that dancing played a huge role in her life. It helped her maintain her flexibility and relieve stress, it kept her moving, and it made her feel alive. Her main goal in seeking chiropractic care was being able to dance again.
Root of the Problem
What that motivation in mind, Boone-Vikingson set to work to diagnose her patient’s exact troubles and develop a treatment plan. When the woman fell in 2018, she slipped on ice and landed awkwardly on her back, with her legs in the splits. She pulled muscles and tendons in her lower back, an injury she kept exacerbating while caring for her ill mother for many months. Then her mother died. Boone-Vikingson explained that the toll of caregiving, plus the mental, emotional, and spiritual pain of grieving, could be contributing to her nagging injury and pain.
In addition, the woman harbored traces of injuries from her dancing career that Boone-Vikingson also had to consider. Soft tissue tears, muscle overuse, and stiffness and pain lingered from her professional dancing days.
First, Boone-Vikingson completed a physical exam, including checking her patient’s range of motion and reflexes. She also conducted neurological and orthopedic assessments and ruled out fractures and other significant concerns like cancer. Boone-Vikingson then created a regimen of chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue, and muscle work, and exercises that the woman could do at home.
“We had to try a few different techniques because not every patient is a cookie-cutter,” Boone-Vikingson says. “You can’t use the same techniques with every patient and get the same results. So we did trial and error as far as what techniques really helped her.”
Custom Approach Pays Off
That trial and error paid off. Before long, the woman could do modified versions of the dance moves she used to enjoy. That gave her a mental boost. Soon, the treatments started to help in other ways. Her pain ebbed and she improved by leaps and bounds in about a month, Boone-Vikingson says.
“Over the time we saw her, she was able to get back to dancing and be the ballerina she wanted to be. She wanted to get moving and enjoy life again,” Boone-Vikingson says. With her newfound energy the woman started volunteering again, another favorite activity she had stopped post-injury. “It was great to see how all of her care—and making her part of the team—helped her get back to doing what she enjoys. She felt like she was being heard and that her goals were respected.”
Boone-Vikingson is especially proud of the work she did with this patient over seven to nine months of increasingly less-frequent treatment. She had thoroughly lost hope that she would ever live without pain and reclaim her past abilities. Boone-Vikingson adds: “To be able to help a patient who lost that spark and hope that they would ever get there, to help a patient set goals and achieve them—that is amazing for a provider to see and for a patient to experience.”