Physical therapy helps patient battle back against debilitating pain

Physical therapist Jim Hall shakes hands with patient Steve Walsh in an exercise room with purple walls
Physical therapist Jim Hall (left) helped area business owner Steve Walsh recalibrate his fitness routine, lose the back pain, and avoid surgery.

Jim gave me hope. He’s the most compassionate, understanding, not just provider, but, human being I’ve encountered. He looks at the whole person and not just their symptoms to establish a plan for them.

Steve Walsh, on Jim Hall

Local business owner Steve Walsh had experienced debilitating hip and back pain for months before he sought a diagnosis and treatment at Cheshire Medical Center in 2023. The bad news was that he was suffering from degenerative spine disease, resulting in scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and stenosis (narrowing around nerves). The good news was that he found the pain relief he needed to continue his active life through Cheshire’s Outpatient Physical Rehabilitation and other services.

“I was experiencing pain while walking that progressively got worse until I couldn’t even go for a walk,” says Walsh, owner of Davis Oil in Keene. “I thought it was my hip that was out of whack. It had gotten to the point where it was affecting my mobility and exercise routines.” He goes to the gym regularly and loves doing chores around his house. “Yardwork is my hobby,” he says.

After working with a chiropractor with no progress, Walsh consulted his trusted primary care provider, David Segal, PA-C, who had been practicing family medicine at Cheshire for more than 30 years and had known him for 16 of those years. “Mr. Walsh is a sincere, kind gentleman who is a local businessman, community leader, devoted father, and family man. He gives time to the community.”

Segal diagnosed Walsh’s scoliosis, prescribed some anti-inflammatory medications, ordered an MRI, and gave him a referral to Cheshire’s Outpatient Physical Rehabilitation. This is where Walsh met physical therapist Jim Hall, PT, DPT, OCS, COMT, and his pain journey started turning around.

“Jim came into the room with a smile,” Walsh says. “He was so well-prepared regarding my health issues and wanted to learn about my total health picture. I could tell he was extremely knowledgeable and really cared. I’m sure I gave him the feeling that I was indeed in a lot of pain and actually becoming depressed with my situation. Jim looked at me and said, ‘Listen, this pain is not forever, and one way or another, we are going to help you.’”

Over that ensuing summer and fall, Walsh met several times with Hall, who conducted manual therapies, showed him key strengthening exercises, and advised him on postural changes to reduce stress on his spine. Hall also went over his MRI results in fine detail, which Walsh called “a mess,” and recommended a consultation with a neurosurgeon for possible surgical repair.

“The surgical team was very thorough, and they were pretty certain that my only ‘fix’ was surgery, but this type of surgery is extremely invasive, with a long recovery time,” Walsh says. “I have my own business and can’t afford to be out for months like that. Meanwhile, Jim still thought there was a slight chance that I could get better and manage this on my own.”

Hall recommended that Walsh see Mark Horton, MD, at Cheshire’s Pain and Spine Clinic for a steroid injection in the affected area. He found Horton and his team “very compassionate and timely in getting me in for treatment, and it went like clockwork.”

“From my initial consultation with Steve, he came across as a very thoughtful patient who was dealing with quite a bit of pain and discomfort,” says Horton, who has been at Cheshire for 10 years. “Fortunately, we were able to find a combination of therapies that were helpful for him, which allowed him to return to a more comfortable and functional life.”

Walsh was delighted to find that the steroid injection gave him almost immediate pain relief, and it continued to improve over the following hours and days. But he also knew that he could have a short window of time before the positive effects of this injection wore off.

“This was the point that I knew that I had to try something different,” says Walsh, who had continued to do his usual workout at the gym, two or three days a week, despite severe pain. “I had asked Jim if I should stop going to the gym entirely, and he said, ‘No, just try to figure out what makes the pain worse and eliminate doing those exercises.’”

Walsh switched from walking on the treadmill to using the lower-impact StairMaster, stopped using weights directly over his head or against his spine, and focused on strengthening his core muscles. Fast-forward to today, and he is still following that same workout regime and managing his pain without any further intervention.

He is even able to work in his beloved yard again.

“I have avoided surgery to this point, and my plan is to keep avoiding it,” says Walsh, who attributes his recovery to the treatment he received at Cheshire, especially Hall’s compassionate care. “It took me a while to put all the pieces together, but they include using Jim’s exercises, adjusting my gym routine, and listening to my body when it’s telling me I am in pain.”

“Steve was always positive and motivated to resume a busy lifestyle and gym routine,” says Hall, who has worked at Cheshire in the Outpatient Rehab department for 16 years. He has served as an adjunct professor in doctoral programs for physical therapy at Franklin Pierce University and Tufts University. “The carryover with all that we worked on together was excellent in helping to reduce his symptoms. Along with Family Medicine and the Pain Clinic, this collaborative team helped to manage Steve’s pain and improve his function.”

Walsh honored Jim Hall through Cheshire Health Foundation’s Circle of Gratitude, a program for patients to recognize a dedicated staff member through a gift. He says, “Jim gave me hope. He’s the most compassionate, understanding, not just provider, but, human being I’ve encountered. He looks at the whole person and not just their symptoms to establish a plan for them. I never felt that Jim was trying to rush me out of the treatment room. He continues to ask me questions to learn more about me.” This is the fifth time Hall has received a Circle of Gratitude recognition.

“I am very thankful to have Cheshire Medical Center in our community,” Walsh adds. “I just hope that if my conditions decline in time, I can assemble the same team of providers for my care.”