Ashley Milder is a 32-year-old elementary school para-educator, a wife and mother of two, ages eight and six.
She is blessed with a 1,000-watt smile and a light-up-the room personality.
To say busy and Milder go hand-in-hand, might be the understatement of the year.
For 30 months, beginning February of 2018, Milder went on a journey no one should have to travel.
Headaches, daily, stopping-her-in-her tracks headaches, tossed her life upside down. Every day, without fail.
Along the way, Milder sought help, trying — over the 30 months — a trio of doctors, hoping to find relief. Milder endured a bevy of tests, was prescribed five different medications, hoping something would rid her of the daily pain she was suffering.
“They (doctors) were trying to get the (daily) headache to break,’’ Mider said, noting an MRI and other tests did not reveal a life-threatening issue. “Nothing worked. The doctors tried, but nothing was working. You don’t blame anyone, you just want relief.’’
In the span of two-and-one-half years, Milder’s quality of life took an enormous hit. Imagine being a wife and mom — with a full-time job — and at some point in each day, a headache brings you to your knees.
“It was a struggle,’’ Milder said. “You just put on your best face so the kids don’t realize what’s happening and you go forward. But it wasn’t fair for so many people, because I had a headache every day.
“My husband said I was “complicated,’’ in describing me during that time,’’ added Milder, a smile showing through her protective mask. “Concentrating on any task was difficult and it was impossible to carry on a conversation of any length. Thank goodness my husband was supportive, but it was hard on him. It wasn’t fair.’’
Enter Rock Valley Physical Therappy’s Cory Nielson, PT, DPT, a graduate of Brigham Young and Des Moines universities, respectively. With Rock Valley since June of 2020, Nielson, believed — after an evaluation of Milder — he could help.
He determined what he felt was causing the headaches and began. He decided Milder’s previous job as a dental assistant was a contributing factor to what was causing the headaches. Working hunched over — with her neck always bent — in a confined space — was part of the issue.
A Utah native, Nielson determined quickly Milder was suffering a cervogenic headache, a syndrome characterized by chronic hemicranial pain that is referred to the head from either bony structures or soft tissues of the neck.
“My first question — before I had a chance to evaluate Ashley — was how did she do what she did — dealing with what she was dealing with — for so long?,’’ Nielsen said of the first time he met Milder, in September of 2020.
“It wasn’t a migraine and it wasn’t anything that the medications Ashley was prescribed was made for,’’ Nielson added.
Nielson’s prescribed plan to treat — and better Milder’s life — was simple. They would meet twice weekly. He offered a variety of stretches (SNAGS) he believed would help Milder, of which she still does. A series of hands-on treatments in the cervical region — were also administered.
Two weeks later, the headaches were gone. Eight weeks since that first meeting between patient and therapist, Milder remains headache-free.
“Two weeks after we started, Ashley started to get better,’’ Nielson said, lauding Milder’s ability to follow the prescribed stretching plan. I felt we could help from that first day and what I saw from the evaluation. Ashley staying true the stretches has been huge in her progress.’’
Milder said life is tremendous these days. She is pain-free, far less “complicated’’ and all is well despite living life in the middle of a pandemic.
“That day — in mid-October — was amazing,’’ Milder said of her first pain-free day in 30 months. “I remember at the end of the day, recalling with my husband I had just gone one day without a headache and we both thought it was amazing. I have corrected my posture and continue to do the stretches. It’s such a great feeling being headache free.’’
Milder says Nielson and Rock Valley came along at just the right time.
“It had been so long, I wondered if this was the way things were going to be forever,’’ Milder said. “Everything about my life is better because I no longer get headaches. I cannot thank Cory enough.’’
Milder says if there are struggles along the way, she knows Nielson is but a phone call away.
“It’s great to have Cory here’’ she said, noting how wonderful it is to have a Rock Valley clinic in Columbus Junction, Iowa. “Knowing help is not far away means the world to me.’’
By Johnny Marx