Published on January 23, 2019

New therapy relieves debilitating hip pain

Nancy Meyer had given up walks and struggled to even get out of a chair without piercing pain. Years of chronic pain in her hips were taking a toll.

“I felt like I was missing out because I couldn’t do anything with anyone anymore,” says the 71-year-old Deerwood woman. “I was getting depressed.”

A career as a hospital nurse and nursing instructor at Central Lakes College had worn out Nancy’s hips and back. When the pain in her hips grew worse in 2014, she sought out the care of an orthopedic surgeon and later a chiropractor and osteopath. Those treatments helped for a time but didn’t offer permanent relief.

“It got to the point that I wasn’t doing anything because the pain was so bad,” Nancy recalls. “I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stand up without pain. I like to garden, but I could hardly bend over and get up. I couldn’t go for walks.”

Nancy was referred to Dr. Nancy Henry-Socha at Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Brainerd Clinic. The pain specialist explained that Nancy didn’t have bursitis, which is inflamed bursae, but instead had greater trochanteric pain syndrome. The large tendon where her left hip joined her upper leg bone had degenerated due to wear and tear. The chronic injury couldn’t heal because tendons don’t have a good blood supply like the muscles and bones they connect, the physician explained.

Dr. Henry-Socha recommended two procedures: tendon fenestration and an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Using real-time ultrasound imaging, the pain specialist would first use a needle to make small wounds in the tendon to bring blood there. Then she would precisely inject plasma taken from Nancy’s own blood into the tendon. The platelet-rich plasma would jump-start her body’s own healing. “The platelets send chemical signals to start the healing here,” the physician explains.

Platelet-rich plasma can be injected into a tendon, joint or ligament to relieve pain. It’s part of regenerative medicine, a practice that helps activate natural healing processes so patients can heal faster and better, Dr. Henry-Socha says.

Nancy says Dr. Henry-Socha took time to explain the procedures to her and her husband, Ron. They decided to go ahead even though their health insurance didn’t cover the costs. “My husband said, ‘I want to you to be able to walk again,’ ” she recalls.

Nancy had both procedures in her left hip in early April and says she had pain relief almost right away. At first, she couldn’t believe the pain was gone. “After a few days, I thought it’s a miracle – at last,” she recalls.

Pain relief is not always immediate but comes as the tendon heals, which can take up to 12 weeks, Dr. Henry-Socha says.

Nancy Meyer walking outside

Nancy committed to completing the 12 weeks of physical therapy and daily exercises that were prescribed to help her injured tendon heal properly, strengthen her muscles and regain a proper gait. “The best part is I’m back outside walking, smelling the fresh air, listening to the birds,” Nancy says. “It feels like I’m in a magic land.”

Nancy and Ron recently returned to Cancun. Last time, she had to ride a golf cart to dinner and other outings while her husband and friends walked. This year Nancy was not only able to walk with them to dinner, but also enjoyed walking around the resort, and was able to get in and out of the pool.

To make an appointment with Dr. Nancy Henry-Socha, a pain medicine specialist at the Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Brainerd Clinic, you need a referral from your physician or health care provider.

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