The Strategy That Put Me In Charge

A dramatic flare up in back pain would mean days in bed and emergency appointments for Anne until she learnt a different approach that put her in charge.

Interview 23 November 2013 Anne Nunn with Julia Sutton

Julia: Anne can you please tell me about your work with Sarah?

Anne: I went to see Sarah a long time ago for my back. I think it was a one off session when my back was really sore. She got me to do some movements that I initially didn’t think I could do. When I finally managed to do the movements, I felt a real shift in how my back felt but also I realised that Sarah was helping my brain to understand that my back could actually support me.

A lot of my posture and movements were me trying to protect my back and were making it worse. I went away from that first appointment with a whole new understanding.

I followed Sarah’s exercises and not only did I get a lot of relief but also better understanding of my back. I think it was probably about another year before I went back to see her again and that was when she really changed my life.

I had bulging discs and I had tried medical intervention with an injection which didn’t work. Going back to see Sarah I felt very confident that she would actually be able to help me to change what I was doing. She started off by just helping me to stand without pain and then she started to show me how to manage my back and do exercises.

I suppose the big thing for me was really getting that link between what I was thinking and what my body was doing. I think for me this has been the biggest shift. I know that my thoughts are affecting what my back’s doing.

My work with Sarah really has given me control of my own body, so to speak. It’s crazy but that’s what has been quite amazing that now I actually have a bit of a plan of what I need to do.

So, when I feel a particular type of pain it’s almost like I’ve got a toolbox and I go through it. I ask myself – have you done this, have you done this, have you done this and so I can feel pain and still know that my life isn’t going to be affected. I know what to do.

Before I learned about this my mind would go off on a big story the second I felt back pain. My emotional memory of this pain was that my back will go and I won’t be able to move. That’s exactly what would happen. Then I’d need to rush to see the physio to be fixed by someone else so it’s very external that someone else was in control of my body.

The difference now is that I know I can maintain things quite well. The pain doesn’t control me – I manage it and don’t end up in crisis mode ie. bed ridden for 3 or 4 days! I still have things I go and see Sarah about when something becomes an issue or if it’s something new that I’ve become aware of. I only have to check-in every few months now.

I’ve also been able to return to the gym and can do more and more each week – partly because of my awareness of how I feel and what I can do and also because I was able to get advice from Sarah as to how to exercise safely and in a balanced way.

Julia: It sounds like you feel a lot more in control?

Anne: Yes as well as knowing what to do I also have a new awareness of what I’m doing to my body, how I’m moving, how I’m using it and how stress and things play a part in it. I’m really conscious now of how when I’m stressed my shoulders and my upper back take over. It’s that process that’s actually causing me huge amount of pain.

I thought my pain was coming from my lower back. Now as soon as I start to feel my upper back taking over I just stop myself and breathe differently. I move to reconnect with my whole back again – then I’m fine. As I said, Sarah has changed my life.