Coordinated Health

Hitting the Slopes Without Back Pain

By: Hannah Ropp   December 23, 2019

Bethlehem resident Mike Howe has always been an avid skier so it was no surprise that following his retirement, he became a ski instructor at Blue Mountain Ski Resort. However, when his chronic back pain began to threaten his active lifestyle, he sought out the help of Dr. Vikram Arora, a physiatrist with Coordinated Health, which is part of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Mike Howe has always been active and enjoys a variety of activities, but skiing holds a special place in his heart. “I’ve been skiing since I was 16. I just love the freedom it provides,” he says. 

After retiring from teaching, Mike chose to spend his days during the winter months on the slopes sharing his love of skiing with kids and novice skiers. It was during that time that he began to notice his back pain worsen. “I’ve been dealing with back pain for over 15 years, but it began to get to the point I really couldn’t do the things I loved. I had to give up running and it impacted the amount I could even ski so it was significant,” says Mike. 

Mike saw several doctors over the years, who all offered him short term relief, but he always suffered from some degree of back pain. He saw an advertisement for a seminar that Coordinated Health Physiatrist Vikram Arora, DO was doing on non-surgical treatment for back pain and decided to go. He says he’s glad he did because he immediately felt a connection with Dr. Arora who thought he could help. 

Same Treatment with a New Plan

Based on Mike’s records and a physical exam, Dr. Arora diagnosed him with sacroiliac (SI) joint pain. Dr. Arora attributes Mike’s pain to degenerative changes and not necessarily from an accident and says that it’s not uncommon for people to suffer from SI joint pain. 

Dr. Arora explains that there are two SI joints that sit on the lower portion of the spine. Those joints carry the weight of your upper body when you stand or walk. Sacroiliac joint pain may occur in 15-30% of people. Treatment for SI joint pain can vary depending on the severity of the issue, but can include anything from physical therapy to image guided corticosteroid injections. 

Dr. Arora initially suggested that Mike try physical therapy, however, when the physical therapy did not help Dr. Arora suggested trying a steroid injection, but entering the joint at a different angle that would ideally allow for better medication delivery.

“His previous injections had primarily had medication delivered to the lower part of his joint and most of the medication was extra articular, or outside of the joint. I told Mike that if we could optimize the delivery into the joint and involve the entire joint, he might get a little more relief,” says Dr. Arora.

Mike says that the injection offered him relief that he hadn’t had for years. “It was amazing. I had seven months of relief through skiing, golf, running, it was great,” he says. 

Maintaining Relief

Nowadays Mike is back to his active lifestyle and back on the slopes. He still sees Dr. Arora two to three times a year for follow up care and to get an injection. “The fact that I can go in and see Dr. Arora once or twice a year to get an injection for this type of relief is well worth it for me,” says Mike. 

He also says that he would recommend Dr. Arora to anyone that struggles with chronic back pain. “Dr. Arora is great. He really worked with me to come up with a solution and made sure that I was happy and pain free,” he says. 



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