Pure Barre & My Road to Recovery

Cathy Hale Austin, Cathy HaleThis month I am featured in the Client Spotlight at Pure Barre Lakeway! It’s very special to me, because my journey back to health has not been easy. I’m recovering from (and living with) a herniated disc. It was a long and grueling ordeal and as I sit here writing this post, I can still feel twinges of pain in my left leg. But thanks to Pure Barre, life is resembling “normal” again.

A catastrophic event did not occur to cause the injury, but I remember it seemed to happen the day after my boys performed in the school talent show last year. My back had been bothering me because I had slipped in the shower a few days earlier and in order to catch myself from falling, I awkwardly jolted my lower back. I woke up the next morning in excruciating pain and could hardly get out of bed. Little did I know, I had a degenerative disc (L5) and all hell was about to break loose.

Looking back at my initial “injury” date, my brain refused to acknowledge that something was seriously wrong. I kept thinking I had strained a muscle. Whatever it was it would surely feel better tomorrow. My condition quickly went from bad to worse and that’s when I started to panic. I was losing the ability to move my entire left side — from my shoulder to my foot — and my left leg was going completely numb. I couldn’t feel my toes.

In an effort to ease the pain, I got a massage. I couldn’t lay flat and no matter how I tried to rest my leg, I was in horrific pain. My masseuse tried to locate the injured muscle and he said my muscles were all relaxed. The pain was 100% nerve pain, not muscle pain. My head was spinning! Nerve pain?

By this time my family and friends were desperately worried about me and I was starting to understand why. I have no idea how I made the trip, but I managed to fly to Colorado to see my family. I had no choice but to use a wheelchair during the trip, because I could not walk. Sitting was painful, but walking was beyond painful. The impingement in my piriformis muscle was so severe that my body began twisting trying to compensate. When I looked in the mirror and noticed that my belly button was no longer in the center of my body, I knew something was horribly wrong.

I immediately found Dr. Scott M. Sheil-Brown in Denver at Cherry Creek Spine & Sports Clinic. I was in such bad shape, I could hardly get from the elevator to his office down the hall. By the time I made it into the office — realizing I couldn’t physically walk just a few feet — I was sobbing. He watched me walk and try to stand up straight, which I couldn’t do, so he suggested Active Release Technique. If you’ve never done it, it’s incredibly painful, but it’s also amazing. For the next six hours after the treatment, it felt like someone had covered my left leg with Bengay, which he did not. That tingling feeling was all of the circulation returning to my left side.

Dr. Sheil-Brown treated me again before I left Denver and while I was still moving poorly, the jolting, electric pain was subsiding. My leg and foot felt broken, but I finally had some relief. (Thank you, Dr. Sheil-Brown!) I saw Dr. Zeke Harkleroad in Austin who was able to help me maintain my improved condition and work through the pain to a new level of mobility.

In search of the next level of health, I saw the amazing team at Austin Sports Therapy, Dr. Kyler Brown and Dr. Jordan Pellien. It was time for confirmation and as everyone suspected, my MRI reflected a 10mm herniation that is causing spinal cord compression. It’s serious, but my trusted circle told me I could wait it out, so I elected not to have surgery. I would rehab through it.

I remember Zeke told me the only way I could recover without surgery was if I built back my strength. At that time I could hardly lift a coffee mug, so working out again seemed impossible. I had no idea how I would ever be the person I once was. My physical self was shattered and I was emotionally exhausted. I had spent five solid months in agony unlike anything I had ever experienced. My outlook was bleak.

Enter Pure Barre! My wonderful girlfriends kept telling me I would love barre and I needed to try barre. Barre this and barre that! In late July 2014, I went to my first Pure Barre class and wrote about it on Lake Travis Lifestyle. The first class was really hard, but I was intrigued! I went to a few more classes and it all started to make sense. This was exactly what I needed. Strong core, strong back, strong everything! I eased into working out again and my instructors helped me along the way.

Today I’m feeling marked improvement every week and I’m almost back to my old self, but certainly an improved stronger version. I still have to manage my pain, which is annoying, but I’m figuring it out. So as I said in my spotlight, Pure Barre has given me back my life, so I’m a lifelong fan. I’m also forever thankful to the support from my family and friends and my doctors who put me on the right path.

One Comment

  1. Lorena

    Hi. I wanted to know how you’re feeling and if barre was still working for you. I herniated my l5-s1 disc which is pressing on my s1 nerve. Like you, my back pain started slowly but turned into excruciating all of a sudden one day. My nerve pain ran down my backside and into my leg which was horrific! My doctor has recommended surgery but I’ve been exploring noninvasive options first. I’m slowing getting better. I recently started to look into physical strengthening rehab options. Would love to hear your current day recommendations.

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