A former lacrosse player and marathon runner, Leigh Hanke, MD, MS, has a special interest in helping athletes and others suffering from an injury or condition that make it hard to participate in their regular activities. She is a physiatrist (a doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation or PM&R), who emphasizes treatment of the “whole person,” because pain or injury in one part of the body can often impact other areas as well. She emphasizes nonsurgical treatment approaches, with the goal of helping patients to optimize their function and enjoy a better quality of life.
“I want to make sure you can be as active as possible, no matter what your age is, whether you want to play a tennis tournament or work outside in the garden,” says Dr. Hanke. She focuses on helping people with problems affecting the spine, hips and other peripheral joints. Surgery doesn’t necessarily solve all problems that are limiting one’s function, she says. “You can have a technically perfect hip replacement, but if the muscles around your hip remain weak, you may not be able to fully return to doing the things you enjoy. That’s where I come in,and evaluate how everything is connected and were we can make improvements.”
Working at the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at Long Ridge Medical Center in Stamford, Dr. Hanke provides a range of treatments. These include selective injections, medications, and individualized physical therapy or exercise programs. She uses such treatments such as corticosteroids, visco-supplementation, and platelet-rich-plasma (PRP), which is a way to use to patient’s own blood to stimulate healing. She performs minimally invasive procedures for the spine and peripheral joints using fluoroscopy and ultrasound guidance. Dr. Hanke also has specialized training in nutrition and often gives her patients tailored nutritional guidance.
When she meets a new patient, her first step is to take a detailed history, perform a physical examination and then establish a working diagnosis. She makes sure patients are as knowledgeable as possible about their conditions. If a person needs treatment beyond what a PM&R physician can provide, Dr. Hanke can quickly connect them with a neurosurgeon, orthopaedist, rheumatologist or other specialist.
Dr. Hanke advises patients who are concerned about a new musculoskeletal problem, as well as those who are dealing with chronic issues, to make an appointment with a physiatrist early. Musculoskeletal problems commonly resolve on their own, she says. “But what happens when pain doesn’t go away? You gradually become functionally limited. We can address these issues early, before they become a chronic problem, and help you stay active and healthy.”