I arrived at the office desperate, after years of chronic back pain and major back surgery. A lifetime of elite sports as an Olympic-level athlete, and my current ranking on the world stage as a multisport Duathlete, had left me searching for pain relief and some glimmer of hope that I would have a fourth World Championships in my future. Bulging discs, herniation and a potential life-altering condition of Cauda Equina had suddenly rendered me nearly paralyzed in my right leg, culminating in emergency back surgery in January 2021.
My life as an athlete, my occupation as a professional firefighter and even my daily life were severely compromised — simply going up a flight of stairs became a painful challenge. I was desperate for relief both physically and emotionally, trying everything any coach or doctor had suggested: chiropractor, physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage, monthly epidural injections in the hospital to every type of anti-inflammatory, from ibuprofen to naproxen, to Celebrex to very serious pain medications… all with little to no relief. I was not getting better, and I was living and training in daily agony. Then someone suggested Rolfing®️ structural integration. What the heck was that, and why in the world had I not tried it?
While a family visit and a week of training had brought me to beautiful Greensboro, my home away from home, it would ultimately be Rolfing that would have me extend my stay by almost two weeks. The decision was very clear after my initial visit.
Every injury I could ever remember suffering through had always been treated in a singular, anatomical fashion. Back pain? Treat the low back. Hamstring issue? Therapy to the hamstring. I had never seen any practitioner who had addressed my injuries by assessing and explaining that treatment for a particular area involved related treatment to the body as a whole: structural integration with the goal of pain and injury elimination.
To address my back pain, my quadriceps, hips and hamstrings were manipulated, each pressure giving way to associated pain that quite frankly, I had no idea was even contributing to my injuries. My posture and habitual body movements from running, cycling and in my everyday life were exacerbating what I originally thought was a pure athletic injury.
Rolfing, as I would discover over the next two weeks of intensive treatment, is understanding how structures are integrated and the necessity of treatment to the body as a whole. It is understanding that pain, even from an injury, is a complex, whole-body phenomenon. I left that first appointment in tears of relief, mostly free of pain, and for the first time hopeful that I would have the opportunity to stand upon the Duathlon podium at the World Championships in Ibiza 2023.
In the next two weeks, I trained my body in new ways of movement in everyday life, and I found it resulted in such an absence of my old friend, pain, that my ability to train my body and mind was dramatically improved. I ran farther and trained harder than I could remember in the past two years. I began to look at my injuries differently and my understanding of pain — what it was, and what it meant to my body — began to shift. Everything from my neck to my toes was treated and I left Greensboro feeling healthy and strong with a renewed sense of optimism.
If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said that competition was likely impossible.
A week after my return from my two weeks of therapy, I was on the podium, placing second in my first large-scale race since my surgery.
I celebrated feeling finally good about life. I texted my therapist to thank her and my coach to tell him I was ready to give it my all – Oh yes, and I reached for my calendar to plan my return to Rolfing®️Associates of the Triad!
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