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All her life, Joan Enslin had enjoyed an active lifestyle, hiking, biking and walking in the beautiful areas near her home in Camano Island, Washington. But about ten years ago, at age 67, she began to feel strange pains in her legs and back.
Two years ago, the pains grew worse. She went to her physician who prescribed physical therapy and massage therapy. While the treatment dulled the pain, it did not make it go away. In fact, the pain began to affect Joan’s life.
“Eventually, it got so bad that I couldn’t walk around on any hard surface,” Joan says. “I’d try to go out walking with friends, and I couldn’t do it.”
A lifelong artist, Joan found that the pain affected her painting as well. “I like to stand when I paint,” she says. “But I would have to stop and sit. That really upset me.”
Joan also had trouble sleeping. The dull ache in her legs and hips kept her awake at night. “It was really depressing,” Joan says. “To have my active lifestyle taken away from me was really hard.”
The last straw came when Joan went with her daughter to a museum one day. The excursion was hard on Joan, and when her daughter suggested they stop at one more place, Joan asked to remain in the car. “That’s when my daughter said, ‘You need to get help, mom. This has got to change.’”
Joan continued physical therapy with renewed vigor, but nothing helped. Frustrated that she could no longer hike or walk very far, Joan decided to try Zumba, a fitness program, thinking that perhaps it could help.
“That’s when I threw out my knee,” Joan says. “And I ended up going to Skagit Island Orthopedics. During one of my visits, I told them about my hip and back pain, and that’s when they referred me to Dr. Cui.”
The referral was life changing.
At that point in her life, Joan was feeling quite despondent about her future health. “I’ve always been so active, and I was really down,” she says. “I thought I would have to have a surgery, and I really didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t too optimistic.”
But Dr. Jimmy Cui was.
“He listened and asked questions, and then told me what was wrong,” Joan says. “Then he said, ‘We can help you.’ I can’t tell you how hopeful I was.”
Dr. Cui explained Joan’s condition and her different treatment options. He recommended a treatment that involved a steroid injection into the piriformis muscle of the buttock. The muscle attaches to the side of the sacrum, which rotates the leg outward. The sciatic nerve runs through this muscle and down the back of the leg. Tightness in the piriformis muscle can be extremely painful. The combination of the local anesthetic and the steroid injection would reduce inflammation and relax the muscle, relieving Joan’s pain.
She was eager to move ahead with the treatment. The injection was done as an out-patient procedure in a surgery room. The area was numbed, and then Dr. Cui located the precise location for the injection using the guidance of fluoroscopy.
The procedure went smoothly for Joan, and after the injection, she went home with orders to rest and take it easy. “But I didn’t really follow directions,” she laughs. “We were planning a two-month trip to California, and I just went ahead with our plans.”
“After we got to California, I went on a walk. I went about a mile and the pain was terrible. I didn’t think I could get back,” Joan remembers. “I had thought the shot would work immediately, and I was saddened to think maybe it wasn’t going to work.”
But as the days passed, Joan could walk a little more each day. Two weeks later, she realized the pain was finally gone. “I was elated!” she says. “Maybe this treatment doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure worked for me. I still can’t hike 10 miles up a mountain, but I am active again.”
Today, she’s back to hiking, biking and painting (her work can be found at local galleries). “I’ll have to have the injection whenever the pain returns,” she says. “So far, it’s lasted almost a year.”
“Dr. Cui gave me my life back,” she says. “I’m so thankful.”