Maria's Story - Spinal Cord Injury Rehab + Stretching
Since launching Elle Fit Active I have been fortunate enough to cross paths with some people who have created a lightning bolt shift in my perspective. People who have changed the way I view my body and its capabilities. These people happen to have one thing in common - spinal cord injuries. I am in awe of them everyday and feel very fortunate to now call some of them my closest friends.
Read on to find out how Maria went from fracturing multiple vertebrae requiring numerous surgeries to having a body that allows her to to all the things she's ever wanted and dreamed of.
It seems like a lifetime ago that I first got in touch with Elle (2016), wanting to write her a review for the guides that were making a tremendous difference for my recovery from a very serious injury.
Back then, I told the story of how I’d accidentally fallen of a cliff, while biking the infamous “Death Road” in Bolivia. I was incredibly lucky to get caught by a ledge, which made the free fall one of 8-9 meters, instead of a hundred. It still had major consequences though; I landed on my back on rock solid ground and fractured multiple vertebrae; L2 and L3 were completely crushed into pieces. I had extensive surgery in La Paz to reconstruct my lumbar spine, and to put in metal rods and screws from L1 to L4. The month and years I had ahead of me, were going to be some of the most, if not the most, challenging ones of my life.
Although I was incredibly lucky and regained a lot of sensation and movement in my lower body over the next couple of weeks, the optimistic start to my recovery had a quick turnaround. About 7 weeks after my accident I started experiencing an extreme pain radiating out from the area of the metal screws. One of them had been placed in a slight compression fracture, and as the vertebra healed and expanded, the screw was moved into my spinal canal where it hit the nerves there.
It was absolutely insane, as if I was fracturing every single bone in my body every second of every minute. The muscles and the connective tissues were contracting like crazy, which would end up damaging them severely. I had another surgery to remove and replace two of the screws. It ended up leaving me unable to walk, stand or sit without intense pain for months, as the tissues in my body would start tensing and contracting so badly. Also, my nerve roots had been damaged in a way that made me unable to differ between extreme and light pain.
Recovering after this, my body and my muscles did not seem to want to cooperate with me. I would still have contractions in them from time to time, and the pain would just not improve. I'd try to quit the pain killers, but it seemed impossible. After a while, my physical therapist incorporated a couple of stretches into my routine – nothing I took much notice of at first, but then I noticed that it actually would ease the pain more than anything else.
At this point, I came across Elle and her stretching guides Get Bendy & Get Split. I started stretching to the guides every day it was a total game changer. After just three weeks I was completely off pain killers in the day time, only taking them at night. After a while even less, and more importantly: as I started stretching my muscle function and sensations seemed to improve faster as well. It helped with the pain and for how my body felt overall was amazing. At my check-ups at the hospital I seemed to be progressing so well that they rescheduled my last major spinal surgery for earlier than planned. I'm certain the stretching has played a big part in this – the way it increases the flow of blood is of great help to the healing process.
I had my last spinal surgery were I removed all the metal, and it went so well. I started stretching again very soon after, and my muscles all of a sudden seamed to ease up, allowing me to become more flexible, and experience a brand to feeling of freedom in my body! That same summer, my first review for Elle’s guides were posted. Little did I know that she would become one of my best friends, that she is even more inspiring and incredible in person, and that I would spend months with her under the Australian sun less than a year later.
Since then, so much has happened. I had two more minor surgeries, and still a lot of challenges and hard times. But through it all, stretching stayed my number one way to ease tension every time it arose, the best “medication” for any pain I was experiencing – even for the emotional things that arose. It’s been 4 years since the accident on the Death Road this March, and I’ve healed and improved in ways far beyond what any doctor who saw me in 2015 would have even imagined.
I’ve taken two yoga teacher trainings. I can do headstands, full wheels, splits. I can RUN again, ski, swim and jump off docks into the water.
I’m a full time student in university, 2nd semester into a course that I am so passionate about and interested in. The stretching guides are still with me, helping me ease up tension and bring my body back to balance every time I’ve been sitting bent over a book for too long, or had too many lectures in row.
I have a body that is allowing me to live life fully, allowing me to do all the things I’ve ever wanted and dreamed off. I give so much of that credit to stretching finding it’s way into my recovery – and to Elle’s guides for making it so accessible and easy to follow through with. I cannot recommend them enough – whether you are in a recovery from an injury, experiencing muscular pain, working on your flexibility or just wanting some time to breathe and reconnect with your body!
Thank you again. So, so much.
Maria has been stretching with Get Bendy & Get Split.