Chronic PainPhysical TherapyPilatesRehabilitationPilates Columbus Ohio

The Story of My Lower Back Problem and How It Has Made Me a Better Physical Therapist and Pilates Instructor.

I am a licensed physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor.  You would think with everything I know about the lower back and core strengthening that I would never be able to say I have had a lower back problem.  I thought that too until I was proven wrong last November.  But, it was my education that helped me recover quickly and it was this experience that has made me understand lower back pain and how it works better than ever before.


Last November, I was busy working and preparing for the holidays.  I was training clients and teaching exercise classes for sometimes 10 hours each day.  About 2 days before Thanksgiving day, I started to notice I was having a lot of lower back stiffness, but I dismissed it as just being on my feet working for hours on end.  The stiffness and soreness became more pronounced by the end of each day, after bending, moving heavy equipment and teaching spinning classes.  With everything I know, you would think I would have taken action to correct that stiffness and soreness right from the start.  However, I thought my core was strong enough to keep true pain at bay.

Then came that fateful day when karma decided to humble me a bit.  I was teaching a high energy cardio strength class the day after Thanksgiving.  I  was doing some plyometric move and all of a sudden I felt severe stiffness in the middle of my back.  Within 10 minutes, I could no longer lift the weights I was using (8# hand weights at most) without feeling pain.  By the end of the class I could no longer straighten up without feeling pain.  When the class was over, I immediately tried to correct the problem.  I laid on my stomach, but by then the pain had escalated so much that I had difficulty getting off the floor and driving home.

By the time I got home, I was crooked, leaning forward and towards the left.  I could not stand up from a seated position without significant pain.  I could not shower, get dressed or climb the stairs without crying out.  I had not felt this kind of pain since I was in labor with my youngest daughter.  The pain was so severe that if I didn’t know what was going on, I would have gone to the emergency room right away.  It was that bad!

However, the knowledge I gained when I was going through the McKenzie certification kicked in.  For those of you who are not familiar with the McKenzie certification, it is an advanced certification for physical therapists to diagnose and treat back and neck problems.  Based upon my knowledge, I was able to determine it was a derangement in my lower back.  What is a derangement?  It is when some structure of the spine becomes displaced.  Theoretically, the structure is usually a disc.  So in laymen’s terms, it appeared I may have had a disc bulging and hitting a nerve root.

I knew it was a pretty significant derangement as I was standing crooked, all movements created pain and I could not bend forward or straighten up.  The pain was constant.  Normally, this should create great concern, but I first took 10 deep cleansing breaths and then started to problem solve.  With the help of  my husband, also a physical therapist, I spent the next 3-4 days working on correcting this derangement.  And I saw improvements.  By the second day, I could lie flat on my stomach and I could slowly climb the stairs with less difficulty.  However, I was still waking up at night to pain and my daughters had to help me put on my shoes and socks.  By the 4th day of treating my lower back with the McKenzie method, I was able to walk without a limp and was standing up straight.  I was also able to stretch backwards with minimal pain.  That being said, I will still not able to participate in the spinning, yoga or Pilates classes I taught, so I taught all those classes in a standing position without demonstrating anything.

I continued working on my own rehab, using the McKenzie method and by day 7, I was able to participate in about 50% of the classes I taught.  And by day 14, I was back to full teaching, but I still had to do my own rehab throughout the day so that I would not regress.  By then end of the third week, my pain was minimal and my motion was normal.  I was even able to dress my self without pain or help.

I had to keep reminding myself that the healing process was still going on, even though I wasn’t in pain.  You see, the main reason most people don’t fully recover from a back problem, is that once we are pain free we stop the necessary exercises and return back to the activities that got us there in the first place.  It takes 4-6 weeks, before a derangement can BEGIN to heal.



This experience has taught me many things and in turn I believe that knowledge has made me a better clinician and a better instructor.

It taught me:

  1. Pilates and a strong core does not prevent you from developing a back problem.
  2. Having a back problem can be extremely humbling, debilitating and frustrating.
  3. You cannot rush the healing process.  There are no quick fixes.  You have to allow a certain amount of time for the healing process to take place.
  4. No medication can correct the problem.
  5. The McKenzie method of treating really works!
  6. When you have a derangement in the lumbar spine, you have to reduce the derangement before you can resume normal exercise.
  7. Bed rest is NEVER the answer.
  8. How you lift, push, pull and SIT has a huge impact on how quickly back problems get better.
  9. Pilates does help to return to normal faster than not doing Pilates because it strengthens the core, improves posture awareness and improves flexibility.



ABS Pilates is owned and operated by myself.  If you have a lower back problem, I can help.  Coming to ABS Pilates offers more advantages than any traditional physical therapy clinic or Pilates studio for the following reasons:

  1. It is owned and operated by a licensed physical therapist, certified McKenzie therapist and certified Pilates instructor with more than 25 years of experience.
  2. I have the knowledge to help you resolve any existing back issues and then train you in Pilates which will improve your posture, flexibility and core strength.  And this instruction can help prevent future occurrences.
  3. I have the knowledge to educate and empower you to take back control of your health and wellness.
  4. I have been through my own back problem and experienced the frustration that goes along with it.  This knowledge can help lead you toward a better, more pain free life.


So if you have your own back or neck problem and you don’t know which way to turn, ABS Pilates of Columbus, Ohio may be the choice that gives you your life back.


Contact me today and feel better tomorrow!

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.