I’ve suffered from chronic and sometimes acute lower back pain since I was 14 years old. That was until I found Pilates!
I remember skipping Thursday afternoon High School sports because if I ran, jumped or turned my body, my back would seize up with pain. Instead, every Thursday afternoon was spent in a Physiotherapist office where they would treat me with Ultrasound and tell me to do sit ups to improve my core strength. Needless to say it was a waste of time and money, my back pain only worsened.
I had scans, which revealed bulging discs. I tried Acupuncture and Osteopathy, they later left me unable to stand or walk for three days. Doctors suggested I consider surgery, which seemed like a drastic solution for a skinny 17 year old.
Mostly, I simply got used to it and thought it was just going to be a part of my life. Eventually I became active again, moving through the pain and going home to aspirin and heat packs. I would get regular massages, which gave me some short-lived relief.
I remember a holiday to Costa Rica spent drowning my sorrows with a bottle of wine, as I couldn’t even enjoy a swim in the ocean without gut wrenching agony.
In my twenties my passion was Yoga. I was attending up to five classes a week. I loved the first part of the classes but hated when we would get to backbend section. I was naturally flexible and back extension came easily, but no amount of Child's Pose would relieve the back spasms that inevitably came afterwards. At the time I assumed Yoga teachers had extensive training and would take their advice about postures, it’s only now after completing my own Yoga Teacher Training that I realize how generally ill equipped Yoga Instructors are to give advice about pain or anatomy.
A few years ago I returned to Australia after almost 20 years in the United States and again my back pain flared its ugly head. I thought maybe I’d irritated it with the 16-hour flight or packing and lifting boxes. Regardless of how, it was impossible to get through daily life. I couldn’t lift anything at work, avoided yoga completely as it was too painful to stand up after a class. It would come on randomly, while cooking dinner or brushing my teeth. Pain so bad I’d find myself in tears in a heap on the floor. It was so frustrating being an otherwise healthy young woman with a pain that wasn’t visible. Pain affects your mental health as well as your lifestyle.
I decided I couldn’t live like this any longer and was determined to find a solution. I had several more scans and X-rays and varying diagnosis and treatment plans. Every Physiotherapist I spoke to gave me a different opinion. How was I, a laymen, supposed to know which was correct? Who to trust?
One Physio suggested I try Pilates, which I knew nothing about.
My initial consultation with my Pilates instructor was fascinating. She walked me though the basics or core control and several basic mat exercises. During the next few weeks I learned about my pelvic floor, my Transverse Abdominus muscle and my posture. I used all the bizarre looking studio equipment including the Reformer and Wunda Chair. The whole time I was attending sessions, two times a week, I wasn’t convinced. I was used to high intensity exercise that made you sweat, and couldn’t see how these small, controlled movements were doing anything! That was until a few months in I realized my pain was gone. For the first time I could run, and jump and backbend to my hearts content without pain! It was incredible.
So convinced was I of the power of Pilates, I signed up to undertake my Diploma of Professional Pilates Instruction. Today I love helping people with chronic Back Pain, as I personally understand how horrible it can be.