The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Fixing Leg Numbness, Back Pain, Flank Pain, Knee Pain, Nerve Pain, Three Unhealthy Surgeries, Part I

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In this post, Bernie, an 80 year old retired photographer tells how he was signed up to take my "fix your back pain" workshop in 2005, but was convinced by his doctors that nothing but surgery would help. After "completely successful" surgery, his pain returned and worsened. He returned two years later to me. December 2007, Bernie wrote:

"I was a professional photographer for over 53 years-freelance-meaning go any place, any where- for many varied clients and I am now 80 years old and retired from photography.

"Much of the time I carried a 40-pound camera bag on my shoulder when climbing a 75 ft radio tower, walking on railroad construction sites or climbing The Great Wall in China.

"When I was at my vacation home, I climbed ladders to paint, replace cedar shingles and install new windows.

"Both my knee joints were replaced (5/93 & 6/01). Sometime in 2003 I was aware of tingling in both of my lower limbs from the knees downward. That started my medical testing with EMG’s, MRI, CT Scan and X-rays. The diagnosis was spinal stenosis caused by age-related changes in my spine. Physical therapy was started and I had an epidural, which helped for about a year. Then a second epidural lasted for only 3 months.

"I had been volunteering in an E.R. for 7 years helping patients and I had to stop as it was impossible to walk or stand on my feet because of the strong tingling in both limbs. Then I was told that spine surgery was the answer, but continue P.T. with some changes of the therapy. So, two years later, with some relief… but not enough to continue, I stopped the P.T., had an MRI scan which showed further degeneration of L4 & L5 with kinking of nerve roots. All along there was a pain in my left flank, but that was overshadowed by the strong tingling in the knees. There had been suspicion of kidney stones or liver function but x-rays & all blood work proved negative. I was hurting more in both knees.

"The spring passed at my vacation home near Barnegat Bay with much pain and with me looking at my kayak that had remained in storage. I called for surgery to be scheduled.

"The lumbar myelogram & CT was done at Pennsylvania Hospital and surgery date was set.

"On March 10,2005 I found the website of Jolie Bookspan and e-mailed her with my “story” of pain. Her class to fix back pain was going to be held soon a few blocks from where I lived. She asked me to try the class first, (it was being held a week before the schedule surgery) but I told her that both legs are numb and I am walking like a drunk, the doctors said no amount of exercise or body mechanics would fix such structural problems, and am going thru with the surgery on May 11, 2005.

"Post-op recovery was hell. The summer was hell with pain killers and sleeping pills. At the follow-up exams, I was told “the surgery went well, no infection, you’ll be better in 6 to 8 months”. The laminectomy used a metal plate & 4 screws and a bone graft from my hip for the fusion of L4 & L5. The pain in my left flank remained throughout 77 physical therapy treatments. The surgeon prescribed Elavil and when I took it, I felt like a zombie. After I told him, I was told to try a half tablet. That made me feel like a half-zombie.

"No doctor had a solution except “try Tylenol, Advil, Fentanyl, and more”…a consult with a neurologist said that my twisted nerve would never get better. (So why all the surgery?) The pain in my left flank remained.

"Then I took Jolie's class on October 20, 2007 and she had the answer. My left flank pain was not a medical condition (I was put through every test including kidney function), but a muscle in spasm. I was doing the wrong exercises that I had learned in PT and they were making it worse. She taught me to do the exercises the correct way as shown in her books and articles in her websites.

"Five days later I reported to Jolie that I had been working at The Clay Studio, throwing clay on a wheel making pottery for 4 hours and felt good. Usually after walking the 5 blocks from my home to the studio both legs would tingle badly and I had to stop halfway to rest. Not today. When I told my classmates about you phoning me to ask how I was doing with your exercises & stretching, they could not get over your caring. None of us had ever had a Dr. call to checkup. You are one hellova person and I’m thankful that I’ve met you.

"I’ve had my back problems with the muscle spasm and damaged nerve for a long time…roughly 4-5 years…and I’m getting better since you came into my life. There is no other way to say it. Thanks Dr. Jolie for your passion for helping others.

"On your questionnaire in the first class I wrote that I wanted to be able to dance with my daughter at her wedding in January 2008. You have made it happen for me.

"I will dance."



Next - Fixing Leg Numbness, Back Pain, Flank Pain, Knee Pain, Nerve Pain, Three Unhealthy Surgeries, Part II - a look behind the scenes.

Follow-up Note - the wedding on the 4th of January was great and Bernie danced and danced. Here is a photo.

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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