Multiple myeloma hit me with a shriek in April of 1999 when three vertebrae collapsed and I tumbled to the floor. The pain was shattering. For several minutes I was unable to move. My wife, Elaine, forced a strong dose of pain-killing medication into me and got me to a doctor. For the next eight weeks of examinations, tests and treatment, I was in constant pain and barely able to move, relying on a clumsy walker and a shaky cane to go from home to clinic to hospital to home. My treatment, coupled with a lack of activity, worsened my physical condition. I suffered a blood clot in my left leg, the one that had served as my underpinning while spending endless hours lying on my left side in hopes of reducing the pain the medication didn’t eliminate.
I realized that to cope with myeloma, I needed to focus on three specific goals:
- I had to find a way to manage the pain.
- I was determined to utilize the treatments my doctors recommended to help control the disease. This included blood transfu sions, hydration, radiation, chemotherapy (VAD), and a wide range of other drugs and medications.
- My third goal was to regain mobility.
What I learned is that physical conditioning is an area that is often overlooked by myeloma patients. Oh, sure, I had heard about the importance of exercise but when the pain was the worst and the medication made me the wooziest, exercise was the furthest thought from my mind.
As I improved, it became increasingly important to regaining my strength and mobility. I started doing the physical exercise prescribed: stretches and ultrasound therapy. However, what I discovered early on was the potential value of an aggressive approach to physical conditioning. Upon the recommendation of Elaine’s brother, a noted orthopedic researcher and surgeon, I began training on a computer-based, space-age lumbar extension machine. The unit and program are called MedX and have been used in the rehabilitation community for more than 10 years. Designed by Arthur Jones, the fitness guru who invented Nautilus equipment, the MedX program is available at about 1,000 locations in the US.
Since last fall, the MedX/Exer-Med program has become the key third element of my therapy. After two dozen twice-a-week sessions, the MedX program has enabled me to reduce my pain and regain considerable mobility. In combination with once-a-month Aredia treatments, the exercise program has helped to strengthen and straighten my spine. The results have been very positive. Even more encouraging, some medical studies suggest the MedX regimen will actually help restore and re-grow bone. One research study conducted at the University of Florida using heart transplant patients suffering from osteoporosis, revealed that the MedX program restored bone mineral density and prevented trabecular bone loss. Other long-term trials are underway to determine the effectiveness of isolated lumbar extension testing not only for rehabilitation but as a method for preventing chronic lower back pain. At the rehabilitation center where I go, more than 1,000 patients with back injuries and chronic back pain have been helped over the past six years. The protocol has demonstrated results.
The MedX weight-resistant machine works by stabilizing the pelvis and isolating the spine so that the body’s small, weak lumbar muscles are not allowed to work. By having the muscles in the legs and buttocks take on the load, the lumbar muscles eventually become stronger. During treatment, a person is strapped into an upright position with several pads and belts exerting pressure on the thighs and hips to prevent them from moving. It is a dynamic exercise that uses a pre-set range of motion, linked to weight resistance, time, load and endurance. I began with a limited range of motion of just 36 degrees, 30 pounds of weight, a dozen repetitions and limited endurance. It was not easy. Over time, weight and range of motion were steadily increased and endurance levels were adjusted. The goal was to strengthen my lower back muscles without further damaging the spine. That’s what the MedX machine seems to do and that’s how it differs from other exercise programs. My condition has improved dramatically – I now train using 125 pound resistance.
The MedX program, coupled with stretching and cardiovascular exercises, has clearly helped strengthen my badly weakened back. My orthopedist agrees that my physical exercise and continuing Aredia treatments have led to "significant improvement" in my spinal condition. I am a very different person now than I was the day I started the MedX program. I slouched heavily, used a walker and could barely sit upright in a chair. After four months of MedX therapy, I am on the right track of physical conditioning and pain control. In combination with my medical treatment, I hope to continue coping with my myeloma in my fight for survival.
Editor’s note: For more information, call Roy Meyer at (703) 938-5574, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.medxonline.com