“Equilibrium changed my life…” A testimonial from Andrea Schins

Dear Nancy,

I wanted to write you a note to say thank you for the wonderful services that are provided at Equilibrium and to let you know how much I value the great instructors I have worked with.

In July of 2011, I was diagnosed with grade II spondylolisthesis of my 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae. Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra in the spine slips out of proper position onto the bone below it, most often due to a fracture in the vertebra.  In my case, I had a fracture in my 4th lumbar vertebra causing it to slip forward over my 5th lumbar vertebra.  I have no idea what caused this fracture.  Commonly they are caused by a congenital weakness in the bone.  Nor do I know how long I had this condition prior to being diagnosed.  It is not uncommon for this condition to be asymptomatic for a long time before the pressure on the spinal nerves becomes enough that it causes pain.  In my case, I went to bed one night feeling fine and woke up the next morning with severe lower back pain and sciatic pain radiating down my left leg.  Additionally, by the time I had a MRI and was diagnosed, my condition had already progressed so that I had no disc left between the two bones.  Therefore, my vertebrae were bone on bone, adding to the challenge of managing the condition and addressing the pain.  To say that this diagnoses negatively impacted my daily activities is an understatement.  I have always been very active (running, weight lifting, skiing, golf) person and now I was unable to do many of the activities I enjoyed due to pain.  At that time, my son was only 3 years old and I was unable to run after him and play as I much as I was used to because of the pain.  My doctor and I opted to treat this condition conservatively which involved a series of steroid injections, daily pain medications and exercise.  My goal was to postpone the need for a spinal fusion surgery.  Spinal fusion surgery is a big procedure with a very prolonged recovery time typically.  I was told to stop doing high level aerobic activity and to strengthen my core.  I spent the next few months doing a lot of walking and following a body weight training program at home.  While this treatment helped, I had to take pain medications multiple times a day in order to keep the pain levels down.

Fast forward to 2012.  My husband and I relocated back to Michigan.  I was in a position to work part time from home and decided that I needed to focus on my health, addressing my back condition and the pain I was experiencing.  I started coming to Equilibrium in October 2012 and I am very comfortable in saying it has changed my life J  I have felt welcomed from the moment I first walked into the studio.  I started taking group exercise classes and also taking a private Pilates lesson once a week.  Every instructor I worked with was helpful in assisting me in modifying exercises so that I did not cause additional injury to my back.  Over my first few months of coming, I started to feel better.  I could tell that I was getting stronger and that my flexibility was slowly increasing.  Most importantly, I was able to significantly decrease that amount of pain medication I was taking.  Prior to starting Pilates, I was taking pain medication multiple times a day.  After a few months, I was able to only need pain medication once a day and frequently I was able to not need any pain meds at all.  This was just huge for me!

This success continued until early this year.  In February, I started to experience a significant increase in lower back pain as well as numbness and tingling down both legs.  My MRI showed that my ‘slip’ had progressed and was now causing more pressure on my spinal nerves.  Bottom line, I was now heading to surgery.  While this was the only option I had left, I was very nervous.  While I was waiting for surgery, I let my instructors know what was happening.  Again, everyone was great at helping me modify exercises as needed so that I could continue to come to Pilates and participate.  Coming to class was a stress relief for me and it helped me address the pain I was having.  I also wanted to make sure that I could keep up my strength and flexibility, to the best of my ability, prior to surgery.

I had a L4-L5 spinal fusion surgery on April 24th.  I was expecting a prolonged and challenging recovery period as that is what I was told is typical.  I am very happy to report that my recovery has been the complete opposite!  I immediately started a daily walking program, progressing from 2 miles a day at 4 days post op to 5 miles a day by my 6 week checkup.  My doctor was astounded at my progress.  He felt that the strength and flexibility I had gained from Pilates was a reason why I was doing so well and he cleared me to start back at Pilates, very slowly increasing my activities over the next several weeks.  He said I was doing so well that I did not need physical therapy and that I could use my Pilates classes as PT.  On my way home from that doctors appointment, I stopped at Equilibrium and got on the schedule to start with some private Pilates classesJ  It has now been 12 weeks since my surgery.  I have slowly progressed in my classes and am now almost up to the activity level I was at prior to surgery.  Every instructor I have worked with has been great at helping me modify exercises so that I can participate in the activities.  While I will always need to modify certain exercises due to my spinal mobility, I am very confident that I will be up to full strength over the next few weeks and I am looking forward to continued improvement over the next several months. My pain is almost totally gone.  I still have some stiffness and tenderness right at the surgical site and occasionally, I still get some nerve pain in my left leg.  The doctor said this should continue to improve over the next few months as the nerves slowly heal.  However, I can now control my pain by taking a Tylenol and many days I need no pain medication at all.

I firmly believe that the strength and flexibility I have gained in Pilates is the main reason why my recovery has been so strong.  I am just thrilled with my progress and can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the quality of classes and instructors that are provided at Equilibrium.  A very special thanks goes to Jen, Amy P., Liz and Kristin.  Without those ladies, I don’t think I would have progressed as far as quickly.  Thanks so much for all that you offer!

~Andrea Schins

Andrea on the Cadillac during a private post surgery.

Andrea on the Cadillac during a private pilates session post surgery.

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