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.

The Best Laid Plans: The Life-Plan Derailed

The life I’d planned out carefully now seemed unattainable. I couldn’t exercise, dance, act, direct. Some days I couldn’t even drive a car. Forced to be sedentary, depression crept in, combining with constant pain to make even part-time work an endurance contest. I was thankful just to push through a day and even more so to sleep through a night.

The accident threatened to completely derail the reason I’d moved to Denver, a directing internship with the National Theater Conservatory, an acting school at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I’d planned to build on my undergraduate studies in acting, and directing, to use the internship as a stepping-stone to a graduate directing program. That life-plan brought me to Denver.

Determined to find pain relief and continue to pursue my dream, I tried every traditional approach, including, physical therapy three times a week, and  steroid injections from a physiatrist. I also pursued non-traditional and holistic therapies  chiropractic treatment, weekly massage therapy,  and acupuncture.  I wouldn’t be satisfied with just a magic bullet, I wanted a sense of normalcy.

Because of nerve compression from the neck injury, I had very little feeling in my  left hand and fingers, and frequent tingling and burning.  Often I couldn’t pick up so much as a glass of water  without dropping it. Many glasses and dishes were broken during those first few years of healing.

The medical recommendations were overwhelming. The neurologist: pain medication and a back surgery to relieve constant low back pain. Plus, a rib resection to alleviate nerve compression. TMJ specialists: jaw surgery on my right temporomandibular joint. The physiatrist injected steroids and encouraged continued physical therapy.

It’s almost comical now when I look back at the array of appliances and props. A neck brace to drive and really, just move around, a bite-like retainer for my TMJ, a lower back brace to help with the pain and special pillows and medications to sleep.

Finally, in the fall of 1995, I gave in and decided to take the path of surgery. The first: rib resection in hopes of decreasing neck pain and possibly regain the use of my  left hand and fingers.

Part Two from the article, “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Genevieve Nedder.