A road warrior’s guide to chronic pain recovery

September 17th, 2019  by  Dr. Dylan Peterson, DPT – - Physical Therapist at Hinge Health

Rich is a consultant at a Big 4 accounting firm who works 10 hour-days hunched over a computer and then commutes 55 miles each day. Having a history of back and joint conditions and being sedentary was taking a cumulative toll on Rich’s body. Over the past 2 years, his back pain became unbearable. He tried epidurals, surgery, and physical therapy, but none made a lasting difference. His doctor prescribed opioids, but Rich quickly tired of waking up every 3 hours to take a pill that only masked but did not address the cause of his pain. Rich’s lowest point came when his wife had to carry her own delivery bag into the hospital while she was in labor with their child because Rich was in too much pain to help.

Rich had broken bones at the base of his spine and he shared, “I was bed-ridden for the month of December. I’d tried everything and surgery was my last option.” Desperate to get back to doing the things he loves, like playing with his children, getting back to work, and even a chance to play basketball and golf again, he reluctantly completed pre-admission testing for his second surgery even though he knew surgery was unlikely to be a permanent solution.

Rich isn’t alone—in fact his story illustrates an all-too-common experience. Half of Americans— many in desk-based jobs — suffer from musculoskeletal (MSK) pain each year, and many have resigned themselves to the fact that surgery is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be.

Why is chronic pain so common in the professional services industry?

Rich is typical of MSK sufferers within the professional services sector. Professional services employees are susceptible to chronic MSK pain, like back and joint pain, because of their sedentary jobs and often less than ideal work environments on the road. People with chronic joint pain become progressively less active and this amplifies pain for multiple reasons, including because muscles weaken around their joint. Road warriors with chronic pain also struggle to fit in physical therapy appointments where they may be in a different city week to week. Given these constraints, it is easy to see why professional services workers are at higher MSK risk.

Rich’s coworker knew he suffered from chronic back pain and recommended he look into Hinge Health, a digital care program for people with chronic musculoskeletal pain that was offered by his employer. Even though he had surgery already scheduled, Rich wanted to give Hinge Health a chance before heading down that long road to surgery recovery without guaranteed results.

How a digital care program helps road warriors - anytime & anywhere:

Rich received his Hinge Health kit at home and opened it on the kitchen counter. He tried on the wearable motion sensors, turned on the Amazon Fire tablet, and started his first exercise therapy program right in the middle of his kitchen. After his first week, Rich was starting to feel better and by Friday, he called his doctor to see if they could hold off the surgery for a few weeks while he tried out this program.

In the convenience of his home, Rich was able to get all 3 pillars of expert recommended best-practice back pain care: exercise therapy, behavioral health, and education. Rich said “The Hinge Health exercise therapy seemed to start out slow but by the end of the month, I couldn’t believe how much pain just wasn’t there anymore - I was thinking, there might be something to this.” After 5 weeks, Rich spoke with his doctor to cancel his surgery.

For research-proven better long-term outcomes, Hinge Health goes beyond just physical therapy and delivers sensor-guided exercise therapy, interactive education and behavioral health with unlimited 1-on-1 health coaching.

Rich hasn’t looked back, and neither has his accounting firm that implemented Hinge Health for its over 70,000 members and then saw 2 out of 3 surgeries avoided and a 50% reduction in anxiety, depression, and absenteeism. To learn more about how Hinge Health helps professional services companies, download our Professional Services Industry Case Study.


Dr. Dylan Peterson, DPT
About the Author

Dylan is one of Hinge Health’s Clinical Specialists. He is originally from Minnesota and earned his BA in Philosophy with a minor and Psychology at Fort Lewis College. After that he earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at California State University - Sacramento. When he is not in the office helping the Hinge Health community as a physical therapist and pain consultant, he is an avid trail runner and not-quite-sub-4-minute-miler.


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