Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

Heather May was accustomed to plenty of physical activity: running at least five (up to 10) kilometers three times each week, playing adult volleyball twice weekly, and frequently visiting the gym.

But a sudden burst of pain effectively sidelined her.

“I had strained my knee while training for the ‘Brew to Brew 10K race,” she says. “That’s a race from the Allentown Brew Works to the one in Bethlehem.

“A month or two later, I experienced excruciating pain in the right side of my lower back. It would just come and go, and no amount of stretching or anything else did much to fix it.”

Heather quit training for four weeks. When she attempted to get ready for the VIA of the Lehigh Valley Marathon, the pain simply grew worse.

It finally reached a point where Heather could barely move. It hurt when she stood; it hurt when she sat. “I even lost work time because of it,” she says. (She’s an assistant chemist with Intertek’s chemical and material testing analysis lab in Allentown.)

When a particularly severe flare-up caused her to seek prompt medical attention, she hit a wall.

“A friend suggested trying a PT facility. When I called my doctor for a referral, the office was closed. I turned to St. Luke’s after another hospital network wouldn’t see me without a referral,” she says.

Not only did St. Luke’s connect Heather with the Comprehensive Spine program right away, the staff guided her to Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s in Emmaus—a convenient location for her home and work and (more importantly) one that could see her quickly.

After a thorough analysis of her gait and musculature, Matthew Campbell, PT, DPT designed a course of core-strengthening exercises—such as side planks and bridges, to target her weak transverse abdominal muscles­—and tweaked her running technique as well.

The payoff came quickly. “Before my therapy, I could run a mile in 10:30,” she says. “With my improved strength and technique, I can now clock an average of 9:23 over the course of four miles.”

Her next goal? Running in the St. Luke’s half-marathon on April 28.

“I’m really looking forward to the race,” she says. “If I can hold my average time to 10 minutes-per-mile, I’ll be ecstatic.”

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