The Healing Path of Pilates

Before surgery, the physiatrist recommended  Pilates as one way to help prepare for surgery.  He recommended Amy Anderson (A Living Art Centre), who specialized in Pilates rehabilitation. I’m forever grateful to Amy for introducing me to Pilates and setting me on the path of my healing journey.

I walked into Amy’s studio, looking around the small room filled with strange balls, barrels, beds and other odd-looking equipment. We spent the first several hours together “learning to breathe” and with her gently guiding me through the practice of simply lifting and lowering my arms. Next sessions focused on turning my head slowly from side to side, more breathing and more engaging of abdominal muscles.

Within sixteen sessions and four months, I’d show up to Pilates rehab sessions without a neck or back brace. I had more feeling in my hand and fingers than in years. In a few short months, Amy helped me build mobility, have less pain and most importantly, begin to reclaim my body.

I was elated. Something other than surgery worked and I was making it happen! Re-energized and re-focused, I continued Pilates rehabilitation and moved on to Pilates conditioning for well over a year. In Boulder, I entered a pre-pilates training program at the Pilates Center (Amy Alpers and Rachel Segal), and continued to be impressed with the results and newfound body awareness.

During my year at the Pilates Center, my low back pain disappeared completely. The Pilates regimen prevented the need for surgery. I was realizing the body’s ability to heal, how to recognize and listen to its wisdom, allowing the universe of information and energy to flow. I came to believe firmly in the transformation that can come when we allow the body’s natural healing process to occur and make the time and space to truly listen to our bodies.

Part Three of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.

Simple Solutions for Back Pain – #10 Hamstring Stretches

Hamstring stretch 2nd position Stretch #2 Hamstring Stretch on Back Systems3 Stretch #2- Hamstring Stretch  Back System3

Keeping the hamstrings stretched is an important part of maintaining lumbar flexibility.

Tight hamstrings, gluteal and hip flexor muscles are often key components of back pain. Even if you’re not in pain,  (happy times) it’s important and extremely helpful to maintain hamstring flexibility. Keeping your hamstrings long and released can give you less back discomfort as well as improve your gait.

There are many ways to stretch the hamstrings, but one of my favorites is to use the Back System3 machine . Many gyms have it, and you can find BackSystem3 or a Precor version in most Physical Therapy offices.  So check with a trainer the next time you’re at your gym.  I’ve had one in all of my studios and started using this incredible system several decades ago.

If your back is tight or if you have low back pain, try the first 2 exercises listed in the Back Systems3 machine booklet. My recommendation is to start with Hamstring stretch, which is the 2nd one, then move on to the Low back stretch, which is the first.

 Hamstring Stretch on the BackSystem3

How to:

  • Begin by extending 1 leg over the Rollers and keep your opposite foot in pedal.  (see very old photo of me above):)
  • Follow the instructions for how  long to hold and how man reps., etc. Please be careful, none of these stretches are held very long, especially during the first few repetitions. The top hand/bar position is more challenging, so if you want more of a stretch, place your hands on the top rung.
  • After the parallel leg position you can internally rotate your leg and change the stretch to your outer hamstring muscles.  (no photo shown).  Keep your foot flexed.
  • Follow the same instructions for the first leg position.  (how long to hold, etc.)
  • Or schedule a session with me or one of my instructors at the studio and ask us to take you through a private session using this effective system.
Geneviève headshot

Geneviève

Body Fundamentals Tucson studio clients, you’re welcome to come by during business hours any day and use the Back System machine. Just give us a call and check in before you come by in case we’ve run out for lunch or the machine is being used.:)

If you don’t  stretch your hamstrings on a regular basis, add these hamstring stretches to your home routine for preventative back care, back pain relief and improved alignment.  If you’d like some easy Hamstring stretches to practice at home that don’t involve equipment, just send me a question below or email me: change@bodyfundamentals.com

Simple solutions for Back Pain -#9 Triceps Stretch

Geneviève headshot  Stretch your Triceps and Shoulders

Protect your shoulder joints while keeping your muscles flexible.
  • If you’re not practicing this stretch already, consider:

-Adding it to your morning routine after your back routine on the floor  (For my private clients using Back Care I book, add this triceps stretch at the end)

-Before Walking or Hiking, and especially before Swimming

– After your Foam Roller Routine

– Before Weight Training for Upper Body.

This triceps and shoulder stretch is a simple way to warm-up arm muscles as well as your shoulder/rotator cuff.

 

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Gently press down on your elbow and hold for 10 to 15 seconds.

Alternate arms. 3X

Simple Solutions for Back Pain #8: Foam Roller Stretch & Arm Lifts

 Foam Roller Series for Home and Travel by Geneviève Nedder Shoulder stretch on the Foam roller

Geneviève headshotI’m in the process of completing a Foam Roller Series to post with the goal of launching it to you this winter. In the meantime, you can find many of the Foam Roller  exercises in the Back Pain Relief category of the Changing through Movement Blog.

How the Foam Roller can help You stretch Chest and Shoulders

Lying on the foam roller effectively releases tension and also aligns your spine, improving posture. When you add shoulder range of motion exercise, you open your chest, which releases your upper back and stretches shoulder and arm muscles safely.

Stretch Your Chest & Shoulders with this Simple Foam Roller Exercise

Arm Lifts

Lie on the foam roller lengthwise and imprint your spine; start with your arms by your sides on the floor.

  • Inhale – Lift your arms in line with ears while keeping your spine imprinted.
  • Exhale – Lower your arms to 3 or 4 inches above the floor.
  • Repeat 8 to 10x

Reminder: keep your abdominal muscles engaged to help protect your back and strengthen your core.

For optimal alignment, make sure your head is on the foam roller completely and if possible, your tailbone too.

Simply lying on the Foam roller and allowing your spine to imprint can improve your posture significantly. The arm lift exercise lengthens your spine while also opening the chest and shoulders.
Have you been on a foam roller yet today? Be good to your spine and add more foam roller work to your private Pilates sessions and home routines.

For more back pain relief and foam roller exercises, simply Search the Changing Through Movement blog using the “Search this website” option in the right column. Find a post you really like? Please share on social media!

Simple solutions for Back Pain-#7 Vitamin C

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Geneviève headshot

Consider adding and/or increasing your Vitamin C intake.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant with many benefits.

In addition to improving the immune system, helping to lower cholesterol , improving symptoms of asthma, and a way to prevent various diseases, vitamin  C can help relieve back pain.  Among it’s  potent benefits, vitamin C aids in the repair of muscle tissues.

I prefer to get vitamin C from food in the most natural way possible.

Natural sources of Vitamin C include:  Oranges, Papaya, Cherries,  Strawberries and pineapple and broccoli.

Life is busy! For many of us,  it’s not always possible to increase vitamin  levels with nutrition.  Adding a supplement can be helpful.

May Health practitioners recommend supplementing with a 1000mg of Vitamin C a day.  Some practitioners recommend up to 3000-6000 mg. a day. *

Improving your nutrition,  and boosting your immune system can help manage back pain and often times decrease pain significantly.

* As always, please speak with your Medical doctor before adding or increasing any supplements.

Simple Soutions for Back Pain #3: Back Systems3

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In this 3rd part of Simple Solutions for Back pain series, I’d like to share a little bit about the Back Systems machine and, specifically a low back stretch. The  stretches on BackSystem3 are easy, safe and effective.  I encourage you to try this machine if you have access to one.

Diana Bailey, my dear friend and longtime mentor introduced me to this machine 22 years ago in Denver. Before I was strong enough to try anything Pilates or Pre-Pilates related, Diana worked with me for several months on the Back Systems machine, the Swiss Ball and the Foam Roller to increase my flexibility and decrease muscle spasms in both my Upper and Lower Back.

During that first year of working with Di, I was going to Physical therapy, Massage Therapy, and Pilates on a weekly basis.  The PT stretches helped and the balance and stability training on the Ball made me internally stronger; however, the Back machine consistently gave me relief .  Every single time! It seemed odd to me that a little machine with simple stretches could give me such tremendous relief. Back Systems allows you to stretch in a positions that creates gentle traction on your lower spine, work you abdominals.  There’s also a terrific series for Shoulders and Lats which I’ll cover later on.

For the past 19 years, I’ve kept a BackSystem3 machine in my Pilates studios and continue to use it myself as well as with clients every week.

Try the first exercise on the Back System3 machine.

Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes before or after your private or semi-private  sessions to get on the Back Machine.

How to:

 

Stretch #1 The Low Back Stretch:  Start by holding each stretch for 2 seconds, then work up to a 30 second hold.  BackSystems recommend 5-7 repetitions.

This simple exercise provides gentle traction, is a safe lumbar stretch and feels really good!
Tucson studio clients, ask me for details or take a look at the guide. It’s on the “handle bars.”

BackSystems 3- Low Back stretch

Simple Solutions for Back Pain #2- Posture Tips

GenNedder_blueshirtrednecklace This second installation in my ongoing series for Back pain relief is focused on posture.

My simple solutions for back pain relief come from personal experience and successful application of these recommended practices and movements. I’ve spent the past  3 decades in continual recovery and management of my jaw, neck and back pain from car accident injuries and genetic arthritic challenges.  Receiving back pain relief from easy adjustments and daily practices has made a huge difference in my ability to cope with pain when it flares up, and prevent flare-ups from happening as often.  My sincere hope is that these tips lead you to find back pain relief as well.

Step 1:  Correct Seated Posture

Seated posture is the easiest for us to let slide, yet luckily, also a simple one to correct

  • To begin:  Check your seated posture. Specifically check your alignment while working at the computer, driving and watching t.v.
  • When seated, ideally keep your knees in alignment with your hips.  Place your feet approximately hip-bone width apart. It can be helpful to have your knees slightly higher than your hips (an inch or two).
  • Avoid crossing your ankles or legs. In fact, make a commitment to this today and always.   Sitting with our legs crossed puts the pelvis in an uneven position and consequently changes spinal alignment. Place your feet on a wedge or pillow to increase comfort levels instead. I use the wedges from OPTP. (see below)

Step 2: Correct Shoulder Placement

We all have been known to wear our shoulders as earrings on occasion!  Check in with yourself and practice these shoulder placement tips.

  • Allow your shoulders to be relaxed and down.  Create some space between your ear lobes and shoulders (in other words, avoid wearing your shoulders as earrings!).
  • Take a moment today to notice your alignment while sitting at the computer or while driving.  Notice the placement of your head and shoulders as well as your feet.

Small postural adjustments such as the ones above can provide noticeable back and neck pain relief and improve your posture significantly.

Where to find Posture Support Products

There are a couple of options for purchasing the wedge.  Look it up at OPTP, a teriffic company that offers physical therapy products and a large selection of back care products.  Another great resource is the Better Back Store.  Another simple and inexpensive solution that I use beneath my computer desk  is a 3-ring binder.  Any office supply store will have various binder options.

Please let me know if you have  questions or comments.  I  appreciate hearing what you discover on your road to increased energy and vitality. If you find relief, please share this (and other Simple Solutions for Back Pain tips) on Facebook, Linkedin  or via this email.