Patient Stories

Great Performances: Composed and Confident - Nonoperative Treatment for Pain

For hours at a time, composer and writer Georgia Shreve would sit at her piano, staff paper propped up on the music rack, alternately writing the notes on the paper and going back to playing in the act of composing. But in the process, she subjected herself to the cumulative effects of what she calls “bizarre” and awkward posture.

“I would switch back and forth between working at the piano and working at the computer, which caused problems with both my shoulders and my hands,” says Ms. Shreve. “It was unbelievably painful. It would be particularly bad at night; my arm and fingers would go numb.” The numbness in the hands was resolved with surgery by Robert N. Hotchkiss, MD.

In 2003, Ms. Shreve’s primary care physician referred her for ongoing musculoskeletal care to Lisa R. Callahan, MD, and since that appointment, she has been seeing Dr. Callahan for a range of related issues. More recently, Ms. Shreve came to see Dr. Callahan for relief during a pain flare.

Georgia shreve

Georgia Shreve with Lisa R. Callahan, MD

As the founder and creative force behind Ideation Productions, a prolific writer and composer, and with her pieces performed in concert halls throughout New York City, Ms. Shreve’s multifaceted career had kept her on the go, and she was frustrated at having her life interrupted by illness and pain. “I was not myself,” recalls Ms. Shreve, who had also been an avid tennis player and enjoyed vigorous workouts at the gym.

“Georgia has had multiple issues over the years, but we have been able to manage them non-surgically,” says Dr. Callahan. “When she sits at the piano for hours, she’s more likely to have some of these various issues flare up. She’s had problems with her shoulders, her low back, and her hip. But she has found, particularly in her situation, that Pilates-based exercises help to support her trunk and core. Each time, she has responded to some combination of activity modification and physical therapy.”

“I started with physical therapy because so many of my problems had to do with posture,” says Ms. Shreve. “I did it religiously. And I followed Lisa’s instructions in her book, The Fitness Factor, from the beginning.” Ms. Shreve continues to go regularly for physical therapy and Pilates at the Hospital’s Integrative Care Center, praising the staff there for their skills, their ability to communicate with patients and with each other, and “their appreciation of the rigorous elements involved in the performing arts. It’s a phenomenal facility,” she says.

“Georgia was dedicated to getting well,” notes Dr. Callahan. “And that’s one of the great things about working with performers…they’re really motivated to do whatever it takes to get them back to either something they’re passionate about or something that is their livelihood.”

“My balance has improved 200 percent; my reaction time is great,” says Ms. Shreve, who credits Dr. Callahan and the Integrative Care Center with the newfound ‘spring in her step.’ “As your body recovers, everything recovers…your mind, your creativity. I can honestly say I feel much younger than I did 10 years ago. I’m in amazing condition now.”

This story first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Horizon, the HSS news magazine.

Georgia Shreve