Physio Finish Line Case Study – Tom Bowie
Tom Bowie’s 2001 Camry has over 400,000km on the clock – more than the distance to the moon – and he’s never quite sure whether it will get him from point A to point B.
It’s safe to say that’s not an unfamiliar feeling for the once active 22-year-old who had gradually lost faith in his own body over the past few years.
Bowie has suffered severe back pain since high school to the point he has had to curtail many of the activities he is passionate about.
“I think it was 2011 … I used to work in a fruit shop and I think lifting all the heavy boxes definitely assisted in protruding three of my discs, and I have scoliosis (curvature of the spine) as well,” Bowie said.
“That became recurring and the pain threshold … well, I wasn’t handling it.
“From day to day I just haven’t been able to do the things I wanted – whether it was going for a surf or a skate with friends, playing soccer – I even had to do my Year 12 HSC music performance sitting down.”From day to day I just haven’t been able to do the things I wanted. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
That may have indeed been a line-in-the-sand moment for the talented musician … the point being you don’t see many lead guitarists in bands having to be seated during performances.
Straight out of school Bowie sought help from reputed Gold Coast neurosurgeon Neil Cochrane and had spinal surgery to “shave away part of the disc and also cut some of the bone away to free up some space”.
“That was fine for about a year but I slowly went downhill and I think it was the discs above and below that were still being a bit ‘silly’,” Bowie said.
“It slowly got worse so I went back and we got some more scans done. That was the point where Neil said ‘we can either do major surgery or look for alternatives’.
“At 22 I didn’t want to have major back surgery, fusing vertebrae and so forth.”
“And Mum and dad didn’t want me to have to go through an operation like that at that age.”
One of the alternatives put forward was physiotherapy to discover if improving core strength could offer some stability and provide Bowie some relief from the pain he was suffering.
It also proved to be the turning point.
“Neil told me about Brad Beer and said ‘this is one of my go-to physios on the Gold Coast’. I thought that was a pretty good recommendation for a spinal and neurosurgeon to say that, he obviously had a lot of trust in him.
“So we decided to try that option and see how we go.”
As it turned out Bowie was lacking core strength but he was unable to do many of the exercises because they caused him back and sciatic pain down his legs.
“Brad did a bit of manipulation initially and he said ‘I can do this and this, can get you out of a bit of pain but we need to get you on a program doing exercises and Pilates,” Bowie said.
“He explained the whole 12-week Into Performance program and that’s what we decided to go for.”
Bowie breaks into a smile when he describes the next chapter of his life which brings him up to the present day where he and three mates from school days have formed an as-yet unnamed band – “we’re working on that” – have a manager based in Melbourne and next month head into the recording studio.
“It was slow going at the start and Brad was getting me to do a bit more each session,” he said. “I had good days and bad.”
“Some of the Pilates exercises were really hard to do, because of the pain down my leg.”
“Every time I went in there Brad and the other physios were always asking how I had pulled up after a Pilates class, was I sore, had anything triggered pain and then we’d find alternatives if we needed to.”
“After four weeks I was able to use the scooter and then eight weeks … actually every four weeks I noticed substantial improvements in what I could do. Before I knew it I had moved past the alter-G anti-gravity treadmill, was running outside and everything started falling into place.”After four weeks I was able to use the scooter. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Bowie said one of his initial goals was being able to get back into soccer and start running again but ultimately to “get back into my routine of life”.
“I wanted to do the K to D race – Kurrawa to Duranbah,” he said.
“Brad asked if I’d like him to run beside me and I thought ‘you don’t have to do that’’ but then I thought ‘no way, I would love for that to happen’.
“He left his young daughters at home at the crack of dawn to run with me. That meant a lot … and to my parents as well.”
“We just did the 15km run but that was the most I’d run. I was nervous as hell. I figured I’d spew at some point. I ended up smashing my personal goal by five minutes with Brad alongside me the whole way, that was a blast.”
“Considering three months before that I was sitting in a specialist’s office talking about major back surgery.”
Physio With A Finish Line
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog