Beating back pain
For years, Nicolas Plianthos suffered from back pain.
His lower back hurt so much he could not sit through a movie or get a proper night's rest.
He went to a physiotherapist and a chiropractor for treatment before undergoing lumbar spine surgery.
Nothing worked. He could not get rid of the excruciating pain which messed with his martial arts classes and kept him from playing football.
“When I started to develop back issues it was a gradual progression,” he said. “I began to feel a bit of discomfort, but thought, ‘I'm 28 years old, I'm fine', and tried to push through and keep playing sports.
“But then it became a sciatic nerve pain and got worse and more constant.”
He decided to try a Pilates class offered through his employer, Marsh IAS Management Services.
“I used to do Pilates, but stopped after my injury because I was in too much pain,” Mr Plianthos explained.
“However, after the failed surgery I knew I needed to try something to get myself back in working order. When you get yourself into this situation, when things don't work, you start doing a lot more research, and I realised that rather than surgery there were other things I could have done to strengthen my core.
“Your core plays a very crucial role in stabilising your back and Pilates is one way you can go ahead and do that.”
Pilates uses controlled movements to help improve a person's flexibility, build strength and develop body control and endurance.
Mr Plianthos's instructor, Marta Tomaszek, taught a modified rehabilitation form of Pilates.
“I pay more attention to your spine's position and approach the client in an individual way so people with different problems and lower back conditions are given exercises to cater to that,” she said.
“I know how to adapt a certain exercise to a person's level of fitness or to their specific concern or problem.”
Mr Plianthos said while it had not completely cured him, it had helped significantly over the past three years.
“I am in a lot less pain than I was before,” he said. “One of the issues I had was being a very active person. If I pushed my body too much then I would suffer the next day with sciatic pain.
“But now as a result of having a stronger core I can play football again, as well as golf, Aikido [a form of Japanese martial arts] and volleyball.”
Because he loved sports, he continued playing even after the first sign of back pain. It only aggravated his condition.
It was “extremely frustrating” when he eventually had to sit out.
“Due to my back issues, I couldn't do a lot of things, including sports,” he said. “I would go to the cinema and couldn't sit down. I would have to watch the movie standing up.
“I would struggle to sleep at night because I was in pain.
“I also had to elevate my desk at work so I could stand because it hurt to sit.
“With the gift of hindsight, you see where you were when you were in pain and how you are now.
“What I would say to anyone going through what I went through is to be positive.
“You have to be in a positive mind frame and not dwell on your situation, so you can do everything you can to improve it.
“I have friends with back issues and I tell them to try Pilates.
“I encourage them not to go out the gate and get surgery because, in my case, it didn't help.
“It would have been very helpful if the medical professionals I spoke to suggested this kind of stuff.”
Marta Tomaszek is a qualified physical therapist from Poland.
She travelled all over the world and ended up in Australia in 2006, around the time Pilates was being introduced in Sydney. She started taking lessons.
“I actually have a gymnastics background. I started when I was six and it was a big part of my life growing up,” Ms Tomaszek said.
“Due to that, I have always struggled with injuries in my lower back, and knees sometimes, so I have done a lot of physical therapy for myself throughout the years.
“It was only natural for me to start applying that into my own Pilates training, which continued when I moved on to London, UK.”
The 33-year-old instructor said there was a “huge potential” to improve certain conditions through Pilates.
But, she said people had to take it seriously and train on a regular basis.
She wants to dispel the myth that it’s a “girlie” exercise routine.
“It has nothing to do with ballet or pointed feet,” she said. “The history stems from dance and ballet, but in my training there is nothing with dance involved. It’s quite a pure, clean exercise routine.
“I have a few men that have stayed in my class, but I always wish I could have a few more because it’s always fun to have a mixed group.”
Her classes run on Tuesdays at 6.45pm, Thursdays at 5.30pm and Saturdays at 10.30am at LifeThyme Cross Fit, in Hamilton. For more information, visit her on Facebook: Pilates Sports Therapy.