After a five year hiatus from competitive NCAA Division III swimming, I began swimming again for a Master’s team and wanted to get some issues with my left side checked out. For years, I had felt a significant weakness and limited range of motion on my left side, but because I was so active, it was mostly chalked up to a person’s typical imbalance between their dominant and passive side. I was sent for an MRI “just in case” and was diagnosed with a herniated disk and bone spurs between my C5 and C6 vertebrae in my neck.
For months, I tried a traditional physical therapy routine but to no avail. The pain and muscle tightness significantly worsened and my therapists were having difficulty in determining what caused the herniation and how to keep me pain-free. My injury was particularly unique in that there was no sudden trauma that caused the herniation. Instead, it was a slow, gradual process that generally doesn’t affect patients until they are in their 40’s (I’m only 27). Eventually, my therapist recommended I try a sports performance specialist. This led me to the HSS Sports Performance Center. Within 5 minutes of the initial consult, they saw the exact issue I had been saying all along: I was having trouble firing up my left side. By the end of the consult, not only did they see what the issue was but he developed his own hypothesis as to what was the root cause of the problem; tightness and weakness in my legs, core, and hips was causing me to overcompensate with my upper body which, in turn, threw everything else off balance. Finally: someone who understood the problem and, more importantly, was going to help me fix it.
Within the week, they had me start a routine to help me retrain the left side of my body. He watched every single, little movement of my left side, from my overall core and hip positioning to the placement of my wrist in a modified push-up. More importantly, he not only explained the exercises but why we were doing them and what muscle group I should feel firing up for each set. As much as a miracle worker as they is, he was very upfront about the fact that this will most likely be something that I will have to work with for the rest of my swimming career and that my success under his program will all depend on how diligent I am in doing these exercises on my own.
It’s only been a little over two months since I’ve started training with HSS and already I am completely pain free. We still have a lot more work to do, but already, I haven’t felt this strong and balanced since I was a teenager. The improvement in my range of motion and positioning for each of my strokes in swimming has been absolutely astounding – as has the subsequent improvement in my times. I recently went on a training trip where I trained for a total of 4 hours per day for 5 days – something that would have never been possible a few months ago. Even better, I just competed in our regional championships and posted times I haven’t even touched since high school (which was 10 years ago!) and qualified for the Masters National Championships later this year in every event that I swam! In a couple months’ time, I went from thinking that I would be lucky to even qualify for Nationals in one event to solidly qualifying for nine events. I now hope to compete in the Pan-American Masters Championships in mid-June.
HSS done beyond an amazing job in truly listening to my feedback and altering the exercises/program accordingly. He has that rare ability to apply his impressive academic credentials to real world applications. His program and guidance has yielded results that I didn’t even think were remotely possible. I cannot thank the team at the HSS Sports Performance Center enough for giving me my swimming career and pain-free life back.