Herniated Disc Pain Relief: A Sister’s View

In June of 2013, my sister began seeing Dr. Shmuel Tatz. She has been suffering for years with a herniated disc. The misguided treatment had later brought on other issues causing her pain throughout her body. With very little relief from other physical therapists we were not sure what to expect from Dr. Tatz. On our first visit she explained her injury and they kept the conversation between them to a minimum. He knew exactly where her pain was and was able to alleviate the numbness in her big toe instantly. This was surprising since she had been complaining about this for almost a year to other physical therapists. I have watched many physical therapists work with her over the course of 6 years and have yet to see anyone like Tatz. With very little words he understands and can point out her pain without her having to explain what she is feeling. After so many years of her having to explain her pain, she got tired of the charts and having to constantly describe what she was feeling. It just felt as if none really understood her pain. After that first visit my sister felt understood, without having to go into so many details about what she was feeling. He told her that every time she left there she should feel a difference.

As I sit on the side and watch what he does week after week (often he will show me directly), I realize the difference between his understanding of the body and approach vs. other Physical Therapists lack of understanding. Dr. Tatz is always hands-on, although sometimes he does use movement-stimulating machines. He checks each vertebra and moving joint for mobility. He touches every muscle along the neck and back, leaving no area unchecked. When he touches an area that lacks proper movement, he uses manipulation and his hands to treat it. The movement starts out slowly and can range from a small rocking side to side to a subtle gentle breathing exercise. There are no stretches and strengthening exercises here, just proper movement exercises. He focuses on getting the muscles and vertebra to work together rather then just focusing on one direct area and strengthening it. For years my sister was told that lifting her arms above her head was bad for her, so she always avoided that movement. Dr. Tatz has been correcting that and has been moving her arms above her head because that is a natural movement that the body and shoulders need to do. Now, on her own she can comfortably lift her arms above her head and it is beginning to feel like a natural movement for her.

About a month into treatment Dr. Tatz was leaving for a two-week vacation. For someone who is getting some relief a two-week vacation from physical therapy seems so long. Dr. Tatz wanted to make sure her treatment continued and referred her to a woman who would work on some basic breathing exercises and sitting exercises with her. He understands that he could not just leave for two-weeks with out making sure his patient was still being treated. Something I have yet to see in a physical therapist. At home exercises are also important because physical therapy doesn’t just stop once you leave the office. Dr. Tatz always gives exercises that are fun for her to do. He said to us once that she should be having fun with it and that is exactly what she does. His exercises resemble ballet and dance movements. You move the shoulders and your upper body while moving your feet, ankles and lower to mid back all at the same time. At first it was a bit of a challenge for her but within a few weeks the movement has become more fluid and has even improved her walking. She was not as stiff while walking; her upper body began moving with her lower body just like it is suppose to. Every exercise is about movement, easy subtle movements. He doesn’t force movement but he allows the body to adjust and with each season it improves. For the first time, I was subtly seeing improvements in how she was feeling. He never focuses on just one area; he focuses on the body as a whole. She has done exercises for hip movement, leg movement, vertebra movement, neck movement and shoulder movement. He even focuses on breathing techniques and he teaches her to focus on breathing from her diaphragm not from her chest. He will simulate the breathing with her until she gets it right.

If she comes in and is not feeling well he can tell without her even telling him. He just says, “You’re not so good today.” He can tell just by her body language that she is uncomfortable that day and does all he can to alleviate the pain. The biggest thing is to be able to relax while he is working. One day she came in early in a lot of pain. His office took her in and put her under a machine to relax her and her muscles. They didn’t like seeing her in pain and checked on her frequently before physical therapy started. Now that is what I call good bedside manner. A lot of his physical therapy involves trust and with so many physical therapists in the past giving bad advice it was hard for her to trust him right away and let him manipulate her body. Dr. Tatz understands that and gave her time to adjust and trust him. He always made it clear that he understands that trust needs to be formed between them. Once that trust was built and he was able to do more with her there was a change in how she felt and it was becoming more apparent after every session. Her pain become less and less. She even ran for the first time in years, because that was always something she was told by previous physical therapists would not be good for her. Tatz supported her and was so proud that she had run for the first time in years. His support has been endless and when he sees that she has improved he cheers her on.

Dr. Tatz and his office are nothing but amazing. He is not afraid to let me sit in on his sessions. He even calls me over to watch and allows me to assist with some things so that I can make sure she does her exercises correctly. He really wants to alleviate her pain and discomfort and with every session there is progress. Something that my sister feels every time she leaves the office. It may have taken a while to find him but I am so grateful to be able to watch my sister feel relief and get back into life.