Lumbar Disc Herniation

One Patients Story to Treatment and Recovery

““Orthopedic injuries can only bear a certain amount of weight. With this machine, we can gauge how much weight and be compliant with the doctor’s orders. The patient can exercise without as much pain.””

Trent Leonard, Rehabilitation Service Manager, Life Care Center

One Patients Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment

Kim Chula-Maguire, DPT


A 34 year old female physical therapist was assisting a patient disembark from a treadmill on September 9, 2011. When her patient stumbled, the PT stepped in front of the patient to break his fall. The result was forced rapid extension of the PT’s lumbar region. The PT reported immediate shooting and burning sensations down the right lower extremity. The PT was then immobile for 4 hours, finding minimal relief only in the supine position with the hips and knees elevated in the 90-90 position. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where a diagnosis of L4-L5 and L5-S1 disc herniations was confirmed with CT scan. Three weeks later the patient presented to Foundation Performance for a physical therapy evaluation.

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The function-oriented goals set for the patient were as follows:
  • Run 2 miles in 16 minutes to pass physical fitness test for US Army
  • Pain free ADLs, sitting/standing, and twisting motions for return to work and preparation for a fitness test for US Army.
  • History / Progression

    Progressive tissue loading on the AlterG was utilized as outlined in the chart which can be downloaded here

    Objective Data

    The patient presented to Foundation Performance on September 29, 2011 for a physical therapy evaluation. Her Oswestry Back Index was scored at 50%. She presented with an antalgic gait pattern with decreased reciprocal arm swing, wide base of support, and guarded movements. Patient reported difficulty with driving (unable to twist to look over shoulder), ADLs, and running. The Plan of Care consisted of manual lumbar traction, deep tissue massage of the lumbar area, modalities as needed, stretching and strengthening, and use of the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill for progressive return to running.


    The patient completed her mandatory testing two weeks after completing the 4-week progression on the AlterG. She completed the 2-mile run in less than 16 minutes enabling her to pass her physical fitness test and continue with her military duties. The AlterG was incorporated into this patient’s rehabilitation plan to help her to continue the training necessary to meet her physical fitness/occupational goals despite the potential disabling nature of an acute disc herniation. Body weight support reduced the patient’s symptoms, while allowing her to improve cardiovascular fitness to achieve her goals. The patient has since been deployed to Afghanistan where she is successfully working as a physical therapist for the soldiers and running without back pain.