I had been enjoying a relaxing bath when everything changed. Stepping out of the tub, I took two steps and suddenly collapsed to the ground.
A spinal stroke robbed me of my ability to walk, paralyzing me from the waist down.
I found myself on the bathroom floor, my legs lifeless, turning my world upside down.
Unlike a regular stroke, a spinal stroke affects both sides of your body horizontally and doesn’t typically affect your speech. After a week in the hospital, grappling with the reality of my situation, I spent the next 6 weeks in an in-patient rehabilitation facility. I spent time learning how to stand, use a wheelchair, and regained some mobility. But I left that facility still struggling with a walker.
Over the next 2 years, my strength and balance slowly improved with the help of physical therapy three times a week. While the progress allowed me to leave the house using a cane, my pace was very slow and I would fall a lot. I made significant progress, but as a result, I no longer met the criteria for insurance coverage for rehabilitation. But I wasn't done, I wanted to keep improving, so I needed a solution. At first, I thought about returning to yoga. After breaking my nose when I lost my balance attempting a triangle pose, I realized I needed a different option.
Remembering my past enjoyment of Pilates, I thought that Reformer Pilates could give me the support and structure I needed.
I could focus on improving my strength without worrying about losing my balance. I shared my paralysis story with the Instructors at Club Pilates, and they all have been respectful and supportive of my desire to get strong. They helped me modify exercises to challenge me while keeping me safe!
As I progressed, I was so happy when I noticed that the Instructor did not have to spend as much time assisting me! Of course, I still appreciate their quiet adjustments when working on particular exercises. After completing 80 classes, I am thrilled to see that I can now climb stairs while holding items in my hands; no more railings for support! No more 2-hour naps after Pilates! My stamina had improved and I haven’t fallen in months.
I am stronger now than I was 6 months ago!
Pilates didn't just help my physical strength; it helped me tackle the other side effects of my stroke. Pilates has helped me with my neural processing, helping me overcome the muscle-brain disconnect caused by the stroke. Sometimes I need to really think through the movements. But I am finding that the more I progress, the quicker I can process and replicate new, more complex positions.
My stroke also left me with constant pain in my legs and feet, which I managed with heavy doses of nerve pain medication.
After 30 classes of Pilates, I was able to reduce my dosage, and now I am off all pain meds.
While I still experience pain every day, I can now tolerate it without meds. When I take a one or two day break from Pilates, the lack of footwork causes the pain in my legs and feet to creep back up.
The stroke also affected the balance in my right leg more than my left leg. And, some days, I can't even feel my right foot. Pilates has allowed me to work each side of my body at different levels depending on how I feel on the day. The variety of classes at Club Pilates (e.g., Balance and Suspend) keeps me challenged as I progress.
Pilates, along with the amazing teachers at Club Pilates Gaithersburg, has been a total game-changer for me.
by Michele W., member at Club Pilates Gaithersburg in Maryland.
Club Pilates studios offer low-impact, full-body Reformer Pilates-based workouts with a variety of classes that challenge your mind as well as your body. Find your local studio to book your complimentary Reformer session today!