Retired doctor gets treatment for a painful problem: he couldn’t help but fall

At 77, Bob Spector now believes in a type of therapy he didn’t know he had until a few months ago.

It all started with a pretty big problem.

“I was falling a lot,” Spector says. “It was incapacitating. I stopped driving. I couldn’t do anything that required movement and balance.”

Once it moved in one direction, Spector said, it was unable to stop.

“Once I went straight into a tree,” he says. “And, I was about 50 feet away, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t been warned the tree was there. I just couldn’t get out of the way.”

Doctors aren’t sure exactly what upset Spector’s balance, and there are likely several factors at play, including his age and his immobility after a few knee surgeries.

He tried physical therapy, but says he was still tripping.

“At worst, I couldn’t stand on two feet without wobbling,” he says.

In December, Spector’s former physical therapist referred him to the FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center in Atlanta, to Shantha Nithiananda, a physical therapist who is also certified in neurology.

Reading over her old therapist’s notes, Nithiananda thought she might be able to help.

“She was saying he was getting up to several falls a day, and they’re really scary, and it’s stressing out his wife Lori,” Nithiananda said. “He already had to go to the emergency room, because he broke his fingers, trying to catch up.”

Dr. Bob Spector with his wife Lori.

So, Spector and Nithiananda got to work.

She specializes in neurological rehabilitation therapy, which involves working with people with neurological disorders.

The goal is to slowly retrain their brain, improving their balance, movement and walking or gait.

“Here I was a neurologist,” says Spector. “So I knew about balance. But I didn’t know anything about rehabilitation.

“I kept saying to Shanta, ‘Damn, I didn’t know that existed.'”

Nithiananda says one of the key things that helped Spector was an overhead support system that helps him stand up and prevent falls while he works to rebuild his balance.

“It really gave me the freedom to take someone with an athletic mindset, really challenge them and push them to do things that wouldn’t have been safe in another setting,” says -she. “They wouldn’t have been possible, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing them, if we didn’t have that kind of setup.”

Spector has trouble navigating tight spaces without falling, so they’re working on that.

Bob Spector is strapped in while he practices to keep him from falling.

Bob Spector is strapped in while he practices to keep him from falling. (FOX 5)

On a treadmill, he also relearns how to slow down his body once he moves.

“Because I have the aerial support system, we can accelerate and go faster than he might be comfortable with, fast enough to really drive those brain changes that are going to help him with his balance.” , said Nithiananda.

It took 2 or 3 weeks to start seeing some small improvements.

But, after 4 months, Spector and Nithiananda are making real progress.

“He walks with more confidence,” she says.

Spector still falls occasionally, but he hasn’t been injured in months.

“There is a world of difference,” he says. “(It’s) 100% better. I’m not back to normal, far from it, but 100% better.”

Nithiananda says the goal is to stop the falls and, she says, they are getting there.

“Bob is doing great,” Nithiananda said. “I couldn’t be happier that the falls were less. He doesn’t injure himself falling. But I think we still have some leeway. I agree with Bob: let’s see how badly we we can get it.”

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