Ankylosing Spondylitis

AGS | 8:56

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"But really what you're supposed to be doing is using these tiny little muscles up on top of your butt."

Back Pain Bulging Discs Chronic Pain Stott Pilates Physical Therapy Back Injury Ankylosing Spondylitis Chronic Inflammation Cortisone Shots Spinal Traction Myofascial Massage Depression Core Strength Pregnancy Yoga

Story Transcript

So my husband, Dan, has chronic back pain. And he has a lot of theories as to why this has happened. He has three bulging discs in his lower back. When he was in high school, he played American football, and he also did weightlifting. I think it's a real problem obviously, but these activities for young men are not supervised in the way that they should be. And I think he agrees that those those two things were a huge contributing factor to his back pain. The difference is that he also found out, fairly recently, like with in the past year or two years that he has a genetic marker for Ankylosing Spondylitis. I don't know exactly what that is, but essentially it means that that you are more apt to be inflamed more easily. So he has some of the classic symptoms, where in the morning the pain is the worst and his body is the most inflamed. And because he's had these repeated injuries in his back, it's just led to chronic inflammation, which leads him to be in some level of pain all the time. So I've worked with him as his partner, to try and find things that will help him. There is no silver bullet, obviously, to back pain. I think back pain is largely not understood by the medical community, and it's misunderstood by a lot of people in general, like you can't just take an Advil and make it go away completely. He's tried a lot of stuff like he's had cortisone shots in his spine which did help, but they're not again a cure. When we lived abroad for a little bit, he went to a chiropractor that had him do traction, which is basically this method of re-aligning your spine, using I think various weights on your body. And it turned out to be terrible for him, in part because he had Ankylosing Spondylitis and the traction turned out to be terribly painful for him, and he should have stopped it long before he did. He's been to the chiropractor's, gotten like a myofascial massage, all this kind of stuff.

When we were still living abroad, I was on a mom's group on Facebook and I saw a post from this woman named Marie Devershe. And she was a Stott Pilates instructor, as well, as a physical therapist. And in her bio, she specifically said that she worked with chronic pain. And Pilates was something that Dan had been considering doing for quite a while. But just hadn't gotten around to it, in part because, you know, chronic pain makes you like, depressed and unable to reach out when you need to. I was helping him do a lot of that kind of stuff, and I found this woman and basically connected them and said, "You should go talk to her and see what she has to offer." We didn't know anything about Stott Pilates. It's a method of Pilates that was actually developed in order to help people, who were in the hospital long term and help them exercise in a really, really gentle way and maintain their strength. Pilates in general, the way people know it is, that exercise where you lay on your back, and then you crunch your head up and you put your legs up and put your arms out and count to a 100, while you're flapping your arms about. What people know about Pilates is that it is all about core. And it is about core. But it's not the way that most people think about core, at least not for me and Dan. You're like, "Wow, we've been thinking about core completely the wrong way," because I ended up doing this to recover from my pregnancy. So, he worked with Marie for six months or so. And while his back pain has not gone away, it is a way for him to really control or have more control over the pain that he's in. It was a way for him to build up strength in his body in a very gentle way that didn't cause as much inflammation, as say, a yoga class would cause.

Normally, you wouldn't think of that. Yoga is supposed to be really good for you. But actually, research is finding more and more that stretching just in general, is actually not a great thing for your body. And the way that Marie explained it to us was that,"Think about it like your IT band that runs up along the side of your thigh and your head. That is very tight in a lot of people. And why would you want to stretch something that was already tight?" So, using the IT band example even more, Marie would be like, "What you need to do is to teach your body to relax and release the IT band as opposed to overusing it. So,when we do like simple things like walk, most of the time we're using large muscles, we're using movement patterns that are exacerbating problems in our body. So, for example for me, when I was doing it, I discovered that I used my hamstrings to walk, a lot. And, if you don't know about the body, you'd be like, "Yeah, of course. Why wouldn't you? They are in your legs." But really what you're supposed to be doing is using these tiny little muscles up on top of your butt. You're supposed to be using different things than you think you are. And it's all because we haven't been taught in depth about our anatomy and about how muscles actually work and how your body was actually designed to function as opposed to the way, that we've learned to use it overtime. So for somebody like Dan, to be able to strengthen small muscles along his spine, to help stabilize his spine has been really invaluable. And especially to work with somebody, who is a 'Stott Pilates certified instructor' as well as a physical therapist - those two things together - that's what really makes it effective for somebody who's in chronic pain. Because a lot of time when you go to a physical therapist alone, they just concentrate on one part of your body. But what Marie did was look at the entire body and seeing how something that you were doing in your neck was affecting your lower back, or the way that your feet were positioned might be affecting some pain you maybe having in your hips and coming away from the experience, knowing that everything was connected in your body and that you could re-train it, to move and lessen your pain. I recovered from pelvic pain that I was having, from a pubic ligament being compressed during pregnancy. I recovered from that through exercises and an exercise regimen that she eventually gave me, helped reduce chronic neck pain that I had and again with Dan, that's what he does every day. He's like, "If this is something that will help me and lessen my pain even ten percent, I will do it. I will commit to it."

And eventually what you're supposed to be able to do with Stott Pilates is graduate to like more dynamic Pilates, where you're like breaking a sweat or you're really like pushing your muscles. But the point is that Stott Pilates is to build a foundation of strength in your body that you didn't have before and I think both of us have really benefitted from that. And I'm just like a real believer in it, and I tell everybody about it because I think we misunderstand what Pilates is and what it can actually do for our health.