- By Dana Sparks
Sharing Mayo Clinic: Back in the game after pain rehabilitation
For Tyler McDonald, the worst part of his debilitating leg pain and mobility issues wasn't needing a cane to walk or requiring heavy doses of pain medication to get through the workday. For Tyler, who loves playing baseball with his sons, the worst part was sitting on the sidelines not being able to actively coach his little league team.
All that's changed now. Thanks to comprehensive care provided by Mayo Clinic specialists who correctly diagnosed Tyler's condition, addressed his symptoms and removed him from opioid pain medications, Tyler is looking forward to getting back on the field with his team.
"My personality is back to where it used to be, and my kids are happier to be around me," Tyler says. "Being present with my family is an awesome feeling because when you're in pain like that all the time, you just go through your day going through the motions. You don't really live in the moment ever."
The education, therapy and support Tyler received from his neurologist, Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch., and his psychologist, Wesley Gilliam, Ph.D., at Mayo's Pain Rehabilitation Center were key to helping him reclaim his life by understanding the root cause of his pain and how to manage it without opioids.
"I still have chronic pain," Tyler says. "There's no just going in and fixing it. But I get up every day and function as a normal human being. I use the tools they taught me."
Distressing symptoms, steady decline
For much of his life, Tyler has had pain of one kind or another. As a youth, he practiced martial arts for 15 years and sustained shoulder damage as a result. In the U.S. Marines, he suffered a knee injury that never quite healed. Despite those lingering issues, though, Tyler exercised and hit the gym five days a week.
Over time, Tyler also developed sciatica nerve pain throughout his right leg. Then in spring 2015, Tyler started falling at work — a dangerous proposition for him because his position as an aerospace research and development technician occasionally had him walking on the wings of aircraft.
Tyler, who lives with his wife and three children in the small town of Aragon, Georgia, sought medical advice and had an MRI in an effort to diagnose the reason for the falls. He was told that the muscles in his right shin and ankle had atrophied, causing him to develop foot drop — the inability to lift the front part of his foot.