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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Fun and games with my walker


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Hi everyone,


I have had an interesting life lately, after becoming balletmaniac a few short years ago, working my way up to 4 or 5 classes a week, looking forward to summer intensives in the year 2006 I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. I got MRI scans done, then they decided not just my lumbar had a problem but also my neck needed checking and another MRI there.


As it turned out in my lumbar I had severe stenosis, crushing of the spinal cord, and my nerves were crushed coming laterally out of my spine - causing a lot of pain in my lumbar to say the least and issues with weakness in my legs. Then they told me that my neck was more dangerous and so I went into a serious funk. All of this was hereditary. The good news is that ballet was not the cause, but rather was a cure for keeping me flexible, walking, and healthy. My doctor told me if I hadn't been in ballet likely I would have been in a wheelchair with the problems I had. You would never had known!


The reason I am bringing all this up is that I have just made it out of 2 major spine surgeries and had continued to gently take beginning ballet to stay in shape before surgeries (without a few painful moves) and it helped me tremendously. I have had a fabulous result so far, I am still only 3 weeks out of lumbar surgery, my neck was done first.


I had spinal fusion in my neck and an artifical disc inserted - 2 levels of fusion plus a disc. I can hardly tell much difference, while there is some limitation and I can't yet check everything I am so happy that I will be nearly the same as before. This is amazing because I was told in 2006 I would lose 50% of the range of motion in my neck, and with the artificial disc it has been a miracle.


I really can't tell yet about my lumbar because it has been too recent, but I am gaining leg strength and walking 1.7 miles a day 3 weeks out of surgery with 2 levels of spinal fusion. Also amazing and I think I will be o.k. in a few weeks.


Now for the funny part of all of this - I am using a WALKER (who knew?) for a ballet bar to do simple releves, plies, tendus, degages, and hamstring stretches. If you could see this you would laugh your head off, and no I don't have green tennisballs on the ends of the walker. My husband has been giving me crap that it is in the house, but I really do use it to do lightweight ballet. I think that by the time I get into physical therapy, I will have already strengthened my legs and feet which atrophied dreadfully, and I have to give all the credit to ballet barre work on a walker.


I think that now everytime you see a walker, you will have to view it with new eyes, and if any of you ever worry that spine surgery will hinder your classes, I am proof that after 2 surgeries in 2 months it is possible to use ballet leg stretches in bed and then in a walker to eventually get yourself back to class - which I intend to do after my doc clears me. He can't believe my progress.


I just turned 54, and FINALLY am looking forward to class without my legs falling asleep! Happy new year! :):P

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What an amazing experience! It is so great to hear how well you're doing in such a tough situation.


Best wishes for a continued speedy recovery.


Isn't ballet awesome?!

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Honestly, I never knew ballet would come in so handy! It is really amazing, you would think that it would be impossible, but I have to say that without it I don't know what a mess I could have been, and because of it I have the motivation to get past these surgeries and get back to the barre for real.


Like a gym will do that for you? NOT!

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Plus, I know that when I broke my foot three years ago (spent 3 1/2 months in a boot, out of ballet for five months), the people at the studio where I dance were a huge support group for me. Everyone was always asking how I was doing.


I was also able to take Pilates there so at least I "belonged" to a class and saw a lot of the people I normally see.

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I am not at all surprised to find that your doctor credited ballet with keeping you upright. Mine did the same thing. When he looked at my X-ray and saw where my back break was, he said he was shocked that my hips hadn't slipped forward and fused in that way. He said that's what usually happened when that area was injured the way mine was. His last comment was "You must have incredibly strong abs!"


I told him about having done ballet for years before the break, and how I maintained as much of it afterwards. Now he's all gung-ho for keeping me able to do it.


Hey, although I was much younger when I broke my back, the break is causing mega-problems now, so I can sympathize. Keep up the great work you're doing. And keep us posted on how you're doing!! It's so exciting to read about someone making such lightning progress!!

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When the ballet bug gets you, there is no stopping it. :P


Tendues and releves are part of my rehab (split achilles). I can't wait until I have true freedom of movement again. At least I still have good epaulment while I'm teaching (even if I do step wrong, lose my balance, and almost fall over) :)


My students get a good laugh over it.


As said, you are an inspiration to all of us in our various stages of rehab. :thumbsup:

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May I add my congratulations, antbobby, for getting through all of this and making a stunning comeback so soon? Great!


You said that your legs would fall asleep in class before the surgery.

How long had this been going on before you got it checked on?



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When the ballet bug gets you, there is no stopping it. :D


Tendues and releves are part of my rehab (split achilles). I can't wait until I have true freedom of movement again. At least I still have good epaulment while I'm teaching (even if I do step wrong, lose my balance, and almost fall over) :)


My students get a good laugh over it.


As said, you are an inspiration to all of us in our various stages of rehab. :thumbsup:


OMG! My ankle hurts in sympathy - split achilles???! I was very lucky with my injuries, overall...I think, in comparison with those I've read about here.

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I love your story. I hope you continue to improve and use that walker for your rehab. It makes me think of the old ladies dance number in The Producers (movie version).


When I got my walker (feet trouble) I thought it the height of irony that I was using a walker at home and heading off to ballet class too. I never considered it had the stability to use as a barre. I may have to try it out.


I think it is wonderful that the idea of ballet exercises as physical therapy is getting around. I told my PT that the exercises for my feet after double tarsal tunnel surgery looked a lot like ballet exercises to me, even if they were done in the water. It encouraged me to come back to classes after many years off since I was simulating class at PT and paying a lot more for it than a class costs.


My back, which has 3 bulging discs, always feels better after a class and I told one of my teachers just that last week. She seemed truly surprised. Go figure.

I guess word will get around eventually.


Congratulations on the replacement discs. I recall literally dreaming about them being invented sometime in the early 80's when my father was having back trouble. I thought that would do away with the need for fusions though???? One step at a time I guess.

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Thanks for the lovely words and the comparisons - ballet is so amazing for rehab, I actually think once you get into physical therapy you discover that ballet is BETTER and more appropriate for rebuilding muscles carefully and slowly that would otherwise get overlooked in PT. In combination, they are great, but eventually I think with very careful work you can do a lot more for yourself even with restrictions. Nobody has restricted my feet or legs, and so why wait?


The walker has been a great aid to getting my thigh strength and having a good grip on something so I don't fall when doing tendus, degages, or light extensions - in the full cross. I just slow down, which makes my muscles work harder and concentrate on making myself feel the stretches and positions. I can do plies and use it to help me up if I go too far!


Now I am walking up to 2.8 miles of hilly streets a day. Walking builds up the core and then I use the walker to stretch first and afterward. This is helping a lot. The cool thing about a walker is that it collapses FLAT and you can put it away, plus you can also adjust the height - better and more stable than a chair.


I am hoping by Feb that I will be back in class for real, but meanwhile I play my ballet MP3 music for class and use the time to strengthen my feet and pay attention to my posture - I can't bend, twist or lift stuff. Might as well enjoy the workout I do get - I will be more foot focused then!


Everyone with any injury or physical challenge is an inspiration, all of you inspire me - we just share our challenges, we all get older and the parts wear out - good to know that we have outstanding options for surgery, treatments and spare bionic parts able to continue our passions to move and enjoy life. You all inspire me to keep going when I'm all alone and facing that walker, makes me want to put on my pink shoes and MOOOVE!


I never thought that a walker would make me feel like dancing :lol:




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Hi Diane,


My legs were falling asleep occasionally on and off for 2 years - plus I was very dizzy and noticed burning in my lumbar which was like a tearing burning - nerve damage. I knew something was wrong, modified my classes and got MRIs. This was what the doctor said looking at my lumbar "my mother told me that when I see something really bad to say "that's impressive" ... your back looks impressive". My surgeon said I was a poster child for complex spinal surgeries - compliment?


I waited for artifical discs to be authorized by insurance, something they would not allow when it was discovered. I was lucky I got the o.k. Some insurance wont permit it still. It is considered experimental. I just got steroid injections every 6 months in my cervical or lumbar to allow me to function. Lack of ballet or walking made me feel worse, the classes and walking helped me wait longer, I just took much easier classes to stay limber and stretched, I had to drop anything with difficulty and any moves which caused pain, and I got my physician's permission to take classes.


I would have to say, if one is able and is worried about back or spine get MRIs and see if you can be treated with simpler surgeries or alternatives if you need it, it may prevent further breakdown. I was just unlucky genetically, but was fortunate that ballet saved me in other ways physically.

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Thank you for the answers, antbobby.

I also have close relatives with galopping osteoporosis and degenerative spine issues.

So far, no falling asleep of the lower limbs or any burning pain for me; but I am on the lookout for any changes other than the "usual" ones of aging.

I like what your surgeon said about your back looking "impressive"!


It is great the way you have been able to work around this and use the walker to help you far beyond what it was probably meant for.

You are an inspiration!


Good luck getting back to class as soon and as fully as possible!


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Hi Diane,


While you needn't be worried you will wind up in the same boat as your relatives, because you don't always get the same things, being aware of how important it is to feed your body the right things to maintain what you have I think has been such a lesson for me - take that extra 10 minutes to get up from the desk and stretch the hamstrings, walk, be aware of your consumption of healthy food and nutrients, and in general be aware and grateful for the body containing your spirit more often is what we need in the fast pace we live. I have a new perspective on the importance of health over work, it is so easy to just power through work and ignore the body, or eat foods which crater our well being. Wellness is easier than the alternatives, genetics can be mitigated in many ways, and we have such an abundance of good stuff available to us these days!


I guess the bottom line is use what you have and be grateful for it. If I was in a wheelchair, I think I would have to be one of those athletes who challenge the nature of our use of limbs. We take so much for granted, but we have so many options.


Bless you and don't worry - just maintain and be good to yourself, I am grateful I can walk and breathe.


Best to you!

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I love this story! I have never thought of using a walker in this way before! I am a nurse & work in a hospital; this sheds a whole new lights on walkers! lol! :)

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