Patrick participates in the feasibility study.
My back pain started about 10 years ago with a little pinch in my lower back. At first I figured I had lifted something incorrectly at work - I am a roofer so that would be nothing too unusual. I did not give it much thought and carried on as normal. However, the pain grew worse and when I got out of bed in the morning I could not straighten my back anymore, a problem that persisted.
Climbing a roof with a ladder became impossible. On roof battens, you always have to walk crookedly and this caused excruciating pains. I could not lift or pass anything anymore and after a while this stopped me from working and I feared that I would lose my job. I saw several doctors who all thought that the back pain was caused by my heavy manual work and they prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, but these did not bring relief.
I am a coach at the soccer club, which usually requires an hour or so of my time. I could maybe walk for 10 meters along the sideline before having to sit down on a chair - the players used to make fun of me. When on vacation, I could not walk any distance and so I had to stay in the hotel. I also love to swim but I could not do that anymore either. I could not do anything anymore.
Eventually I went to see a specialist who had images taken of my back. My spine was in great shape but my lower back muscles were a problem. The superficial muscles were ok, but the deep muscles did not work properly, which is not a good thing for someone who works a lot with their back. The doctor sent me for exercise therapy, initially on a mat and then on machines.
By then, I had been off work for almost a year and was advised that I probably could not continue with my chosen profession. I loved my work and was determined to find a solution, but what else could I do?
Then the doctor offered me the opportunity to participate in a study with an implantable system to stimulate my deep back muscles. I decided to take part.
The implant went smoothly and after just a week, I was allowed to use the device in the morning and evening for 20 minutes. It does not require a lot of effort. You lie on your stomach and it is just like you are training your muscles – you can feel them contracting inside, but you don’t have to do anything yourself. It is a very nice feeling and when it is done you feel really tired.
After the second month things started to improve, my walking was easier and faster. Then I went for an occasional swim too, and slowly but surely the pain went away and I started working again.
Now I am fully back at work and I can climb a roof carrying a stack of 10 tiles. My colleagues think it’s super because they had written me off. I had previously told them “Don’t count on me anymore. I’m done.”
The pain used to be rated between a score of 8 and 9, at the end it was almost always a 10. The pain is now completely gone. I use the stimulator only if I think I am starting to feel something, perhaps once or twice in the past three months.
My wife thinks it’s tremendous, she thought I had turned into a vegetable because I wasn’t doing anything anymore. After seeing so many doctors I had lost all hope and confidence. Now I am doing everything just like I used to, walking, swimming - and I can walk the sidelines as coach. Here at home I have done lots of work remodeling the garden and I am now renovating our daughter’s house. I have demolished walls, installed steel girders and now I am digging out the floor because they want under floor heating.
But the most important thing is that I am back at work. So, I am not written off yet!