Stretch Therapy

Allow me to digress a little this morning and share something which I think might be beneficial to some of our readers.

As animal caregivers, we perform so many chores in a day, taking care of our pets, rescues and more so, those who are ill. And often, this requires us contorting our body into various positions, which sometimes, can be detrimental to our wellbeing in the long run.

Since March this year, I suddenly developed very severe lower back pain. On hindsight now, I think that it is a cumulative effect from years of bending mostly from my waist whenever wiping Cow and Bunny’s sprays on the floor. I know it’s not wise or correct to bend from the waist (one should squat or bend one’s knees), but I also have not been able to squat for about 8 years now. A sports doctor I consulted said it was degenerative osteo-arthritis of the knee and there is nothing I could do about it except to opt for knee replacement surgery later on. So, the knee gradually got worse over the years. Automatically, our body compensates and copes so I guess this has gradually led to the current lower back pain (due to bending from the waist without adequate bending of the knees).

While I could put up with being unable to squat (just don’t use public toilets!), the back pain was unbearable. It was so bad that I consulted with three chiropractors. All three said it was due to a bulging disc. Just a minor problem, they said. And two of them assured me it could be fixed. All three said my knee could not be fixed (that’s okay, I have accepted this).

So, I spent more than RM1000 on chiropractor fees, hoping to cure my back, but only to have the back pain worsen until I started suspecting that it may be a “bigger” (and scarier) problem.

Finally, I consulted a spine specialist (orthopaedic surgeon) at the hospital. He was an excellent doctor (certainly not those who simply push for surgery) and he said it was 98% a muscular problem, not a bone problem. I was very confident of his diagnosis. The prescription was a short duration of painkillers, taking care of my back posture and doing back exercises.

With my lower back being this bad (I had trouble getting up from a sitting and lying down position and I could no longer bend even a little bit from my waist, I had to keep my back straight all the time – imagine that. I could not even bend a wee bit to rinse my mouth when I brush my teeth), I had to inform my taiji master that there would be certain movements which I had to avoid until my back got better.

My taiji master’s wife suggested that I try Stretch Therapy. (Thank you, Li Yen!!)

Here is the website:

Although the place is a little far, I was desperate enough to try it. So, I went for one session and was totally impressed. The instructors take a personal interest in your ailment and expectations. Before starting a class, you fill up an online form for this purpose.

I hadn’t expected to see any results due to the severity of my back pain, but after the second session, I was completely amazed. My back improved SO much, I could not believe it. This is especially when the exercises appeared to be so mild and gentle (and very safe) and yet, so effective!

Now, I can bend again, to a certain reasonable degree and I hope to see more improvement in time to come. (Please scroll all the way down for the latest update on my back!)

That’s about my back.

What about my knees?

I learnt in the third session that many people have knee problems and it’s largely due to the way we stand. I never knew this before. Due to the design of our shoes, which usually elevates the heel, we have learnt (and evolved) to stand on the balls of our feet (the front part) when we should distribute our weight equally on three parts of our sole, especially on our heel. So, to help knee pain, we have to now learn to stand more on our heel and there are specific exercises for this purpose.

I hope that I’ll be able to reduce my knee pain and at least be able to bend at the knees a little more in time to come. Maybe I will never be able to squat all the way down anymore for the rest of my life – that’s okay. Some improvement is better than none. And certainly better than having to opt for knee replacement surgery.

And a side and unexpected effect of Stretch Therapy for me is that I felt so much more alert, active and actually, happier (!) after doing the sessions. I guess with improved flexibility and working of the muscles, one’s general health will improve. The side effect for my husband was that he could sleep much better now. Now, isn’t this an added bonus?

The purpose of this sharing is what it is – just a sharing. In case you have aches and pains or you just want to improve your flexibility and wellbeing, you could take a look at Stretch Therapy.

It may just do wonders for you, as it did for me.

Doing one of the most basic exercises at home.

Note: I’m supposed to use a mat for this. :))

Right after this post, I’ll be heading down to Damansara Utama for my 4th Stretch Therapy lesson. It’s exactly one week from the time we started. Will write an update after I return.

The update (after one week): Here’s a very happy update. In today’s session, we worked on the legs, feet and even the toes! I never knew that even toes needed exercise! I could not do some of the exercises because of my prolonged knee pain but the instructor modified these exercises for me by adding on props. In these small classes, one gets personal attention, which is really good. Today’s exercises were really spot-on and good for me – exactly what I was waiting for because I need to strengthen my leg (thigh, calf, back) muscles to reduce the pressure on my knees. I have had two plantar fasciitis episodes before and it was SO, so painful (indeed, so painful that I wished I could have my foot amputated) and I learnt today that we have to exercise the fascia as well. Wow! So I learnt so much today and am so glad.

By afternoon, I felt like testing to see if I could bend, and if so, how much. Guess what, I could bend from my waist, all the way down until I touched the floor!!!  With feet apart, though. Let’s not push it. This is already a great achievement considering the fact that for months since March, I had not been able to even tilt my head down to rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth. Now, after just one week of Stretch Therapy, I can bend down and touch the floor already!! Amazing, isn’t it!!

An update after the 5th lesson: (I can sneeze and cough without having to suppress it anymore!)

And update after two weeks: My back pain is ALL gone!!!  

5 comments to Stretch Therapy

  • Chen

    Ooh! They teach Wu-style Taichi. Learnt that a few years back when I had a small group (now disbanded.) Really excellent for spine health and strength. Makes your legs strong and tough too! Hardest form of Taichi to learn in my opinion. I really suck at tui so exercises. 😀

    • chankahyein

      According the the Stretch instructor, Wu style is the most gentle. But I didn’t know it was the hardest!

      I’m learning Chen style. Love it! Very challenging!

      • Chen

        Yes, it is the gentlest and most humble form of taichi which paradoxically makes it the hardest to learn! And strengthen the back and legs like no other form. I will definitely check out this place because always at the back of my mind to get back to this practice. Thanks for the sharing!

  • Chen

    By the way, how cute is Ginger?!! He is trying to observe and follow your exercises. He is such a darling.