A top sports therapist who worked with ITV’s Dancing on Ice stars Keith Chegwin and Olga Shaturenko has saved the career of a Rhyl lorry driver laid low by crippling back pain.

Stephen Thomas, who drives for international haulier Eddie Stobart, was at his wit’s end when doctors were unable to get to the bottom of the agonising condition that had left him unable to get out of bed and out of work for three months.

In desperation he turned to community interest company RCS – Rhyl City Strategy – whose In Work Support Service helps employed people who are on or at risk of sickness absence from work.

RCS referred him to Lisa Edwards, who is based in Rhyl and has also worked with the Football Association of Wales and Colwyn Bay Football Club. Within a month 51-year-old Stephen was out of bed and back behind the wheel of his truck.

Lisa, who runs LE Sports Therapy in Rhyl, provided Stephen with the treatment that enabled him to quickly return to work.

Her connection with the cheery Cheggers, who sadly died last December, came about through professional skater Olga Saturenko, who was Keith’s partner on Dancing on Ice four years ago.

Lisa said: “Olga and her partner live locally and contacted me to do some sports massages on Olga and then it turned out they were touring in the UK with Keith in The Nutcracker, so I went with them and was the onsite therapist.”

Her work with Stephen was very different and she added: “Stephen was referred to me by RCS and he came in for an initial assessment and I did a range of movement tests and it became apparent he had a musculoskeletal problem – a common non-specific lower back pain.

“The pain had likely built up due to bad posture and the way he was lifting. The muscles were really tight but there was nothing structurally wrong with his back.

“In muscles you have trigger points and when you release them you release the tightness in the muscle. During his sessions I did massage, soft tissue release and stretches.

“I also gave Stephen some homework so he was doing stretches and exercises at home.

“The issue was really simple to address, which shows the huge value of RCS and how they can help get people back into work quickly.”

Before that the HGV driver, who works out of the company’s Widnes depot, had even been admitted to hospital for a series of tests for conditions including kidney stones as doctors searched for a cure.

Stephen, who is originally from St Helens, said: “I started to get back pain at the end of January 2017 but being a man I just left it. I thought I’d be all right so put off seeing the doctor.

“Then in June I knew enough was enough. I couldn’t work anymore and I felt sick from the pain.

“I’ve never been off from work in my life and my employers couldn’t believe it when I said I couldn’t come in.

“My employers were very understanding and I was paid my sick pay entitlement but I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t even bend over to put my socks on.

“I was admitted to hospital and underwent lots of scans. They thought it might be cysts, an infection or kidney stones. These tests went on for weeks and weeks.

“I even went to see a private physio to see if they could help but I’d been off for three months by this point.

“That’s when they recommended I speak to RCS. I had an interview and they said we can help you.

“I went to see sports therapist Lisa Edwards who worked wonders for me, I was so impressed. She did six treatment sessions on my muscles and by September I was back in work.

“I feel absolutely fine now and haven’t had any problems since. She explained it wasn’t something that had happened overnight – this had been developing for some time and had got worse.

“I’ve changed the way I do a lot of things now including the way I lift things at work. I do different stretches at home as well as exercise at the weekend and making sure I have a long soak in the bath to help my muscles.

“I would 100% urge anyone in a similar situation to me to get in touch with RCS. I’ve recommended them to a friend who has a knee problem. I probably wouldn’t be back in work now if it hadn’t been for their help.”

Caroline Allen, RCS case coordinator, interviewed Stephen and gave him details of the various fully-funded treatments available to him through the organisation’s In Work Support Service.

She said: “I made sure Stephen was eligible for help and gave him information on different therapists and he chose Lisa. After six sessions the pain in his back completely disappeared and he was delighted with the outcome.”

RCS is a not-for-profit organisation that was first set up in 2007.  The company delivers a range of services to help more people to enter and sustain in employment through improving their employability and wellbeing.

With its headquarters in West Rhyl, RCS now operates across the whole of Conwy, Denbighshire, Anglesey and Gwynedd.  Its flagship In-Work Support Service is part-funded by European Social Funding through the Welsh Government.

Julia Cain, RCS partnership manager, said:  “Our In Work Support Service is aimed at reducing sickness absence, providing support and work-focussed therapies to help employed or self-employed people address common health problems which are affecting their attendance or productivity.  This might include low mood, anxiety or depression, or a physical condition which is causing pain or affecting mobility.

“Interventions are short and focused, usually consisting of a maximum of six sessions. The service has provided support for over 2,000 people since January 2016.”

For more details about RCS call 01745 336442 or visit rcs-wales.co.uk