Tue 10th March 2020

The March Hare and the Patient Pilates Tortoise

Or Slow and Steady Wins the Race

A story for March, By Samm Vince

Once upon a time there was a lot of people, hares and tortoises in what was once ridiculously called their ‘middle age’ who spent years wincing with lower back pain and putting off doing anything about it.  Many, through no fault of their own, were made by ‘gimmick’-wary bosses to sit on fancy looking chairs for hours on end, or tottered in heeled shoes (see archive), or spent their evenings folded up on squishy sofas, lungs and digestive systems folded in half.

In those crazy days, that little twinge, that little tweak in the lower back, the bum cheek or deeper in the scary sciatic nerve would pinch and make it’s presence known. And then it would often spread up to a knot in the shoulder, and then people would stop moving because it hurt, and it would hurt when they stopped moving. The Tortoises would disappear into their shells, unable to work, exercise, put on weight and got miserable. The Hares, if they were lucky and used their speedy skills on the dialling, they’d get a GP phone call/appointment where they would demand Pain Killing Drugs or A Scan.

In those days of patience poo-pooing amazon Prime/Netflix binging, ‘slipped’ and ‘bulging’ discs were met with many offers of injections and surgery, twinging and tweaks with a cocktail of drugs.

“Ooooo, yes please”, said the Hare decisively, “a quick fix so I can get back to my desk”

“Hang on”, said the Tortoise, “I might try an alternative route, I’m taking up Pilates”

“Pah”, said the Hare, “That’ll take ages! My back will be fixed before yours…shall we have a race?”

The Tortoise rolled their eyes and then took a leap of faith and googled.

And so, it came to pass that the Hare did get their back ‘mended’ and was so happy and relaxed they skipped all the physio appointments, downed some painkillers and took a mouth-breathing nap under that tree. The Tortoise, having regularly attended their small Pilates class with a well-trained teacher had learnt about their body, how the spine and joints moved, how to build and use their core muscles, and how they had come to being a little tweaky in the first place. They got stronger and more confident moving and learnt the benefits of relaxing and breathing properly. They found they could take this Pilates learning into everyday life. A standing desk and better shoes were purchased, more walking in the fresh air was done. And they thought about how different they felt as they passed the Hare under the tree. And how much they had potentially saved the NHS…

The loudly short-breath breathing Hare did not hear them pass, but awoke suddenly and leapt to their feet, stressed and tense at the thought of losing, thus pulled and tweaked various muscles in the spine, over used the quads, tweaked a hamstring, did not engage their weak core, and thus barely made it over the finishing line.

Nowadays, of course, Pilates and other movement classes that teach body awareness, stretching, breathing and strengthening are subsidised by the NHS. Politicians can think beyond a 4 year plan for funding. Insurers pay for the right things. Doctors are much better trained about back pain at medical school and of course people listen to their super accessible GP’s when they suggest thinking about diet, exercise and changing their working environment before surgery and drugs. And we all live happily ever after…