How Pilates Has Helped My Back

From Sceptic to Pilates Convert - A Man’s Perspective

Like many people, my back would “play up” from time-to-time, especially after gardening or driving in the car for long periods. On occasion, my lower back would “lock-up”, making it difficult to straighten, resulting in numerous visits to the chiropractor and physiotherapist.

The frequency of my back attacks increased, until eventually after 10 years of putting up with the pain and inconvenience, an expedition on my mountain bike put my back out completely. It was indeed the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was barely able to sit at my desk for more than a few minutes at a time and I had pain and numbness in my legs. This time, my physio was unable to patch me up, and so my GP referred me for a consultation with a surgeon.

After undergoing an MRI scan, the results revealed “a prominent right sided lateral disc bulge…squashing the S1 nerve root” or in layman’s terms, a rather nasty slipped disc.

Possible treatments included; physiotherapy, corticosteroid injections and surgery. Given my long history of back pain, I was advised that surgery was my best option.

So, some weeks later, I underwent a Microdiscectomy. It’s a key-hole procedure, that cuts away some of the bulging disc, relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve that causes the pain and numbness.

Although the surgery was successful, there were a few hairy moments immediately after, when I lost all sensation in my legs. However, this was put down to bruising of the sciatic nerve, which gradually sorted itself out. Although, I was able to walk (well, shuffle) within a day, it took six weeks off work and numerous Physio sessions to fully recover.

I’m left now with a small area of numbness on my thigh, which is a lasting result of the nerve bruising, but it is a small price to pay for the huge improvement in my quality of life.

The surgery was a wake-up call for me and I knew that I could no longer ignore my back health. My original MRI scan had identified another disc showing early signs of bulging and I certainly did not want a repeat of the last 10 years. After my surgery, I did the basic recovery exercises my Physio showed me and it got me mobile again, but I quickly learned that unless I maintain back flexibility and mobility, it soon stiffens up again.

When my wife, who has been practicing Pilates for many years, qualified as a Pilates teacher, she convinced me to give it a try. I assumed Pilates was just for ladies and so I was initially sceptical about what it could offer me, until my wife told me that Pilates was in fact invented by a man (Joseph Pilates) for the German Police Force and military.

Since joining her Pilates classes, I have not looked back and I am now a complete Pilates convert. As well as keeping my back (and the rest of me) mobile and flexible, my core strength has improved enormously. Now, instead of relying on my back to take the strain, my strong core is now protecting my back from further injury.

So this is my unashamed plug for Pilates (and more specifically my wife’s Pilates Classes). Pilates delivers real life-changing benefits and having attended classes for a while now, I am determined to make Pilates a permanent part of my life.

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