Let’s Get Physical; a morning at the Arena Clinic, Mardyke Arena

mardyke arena clinic cork four walls rainy days

As I’ve mentioned here a few times before, I’ve suffered from issues with my back for about the last year and a half, due to an injury sustained during pregnancy. It’s left me unable to live as freely as I would like to live, unable to work at various points, and somewhat sponsoring a new wing at my doctors surgery. Recovery is taking a lot longer than I thought it would, and I’m trying new things in order to find something, anything, that works.My pain management consultant, who is a very lovely man when he’s not wielding a needle towards my back, suggested I try hydrotherapy, as physiotherapy was proving difficult due to the tenderness in my back (it’s as if I have no pain threshold at all). It’s taken a while to organise, between childcare, illness and waiting lists, but finally yesterday ¬†morning I got to go to my induction session with the physiotherapists in the Arena Clinic, Mardyke Arena, which is near UCC, my alma mater. Full disclosure, my three years in UCC ensured I had a membership of this gym which was neglected for quite a lot of my time there. Silly student me. In the real world such memberships are expensive, so it was a bit of a waste.

I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, sore ear and generally feeling like crap. According to the GP yesterday, E has been a wonderful tiny typhoid Mary and passed on the creche ¬†plague this way, letting me wind up with tonsillitis for the first time ever, and an ear infection. After a quick call to the clinic to check I wouldn’t be turned away for being unwell, I popped in for my ten am assessment. I was met by two physiotherapists, one land based and one water based.

Before starting out with hydrotherapy in the Arena clinic, it is important that you are assessed to ensure that it is an appropriate form of treatment for what ails you. As mine came recommended from a consultant there was little doubt in my mind, but the forty minute consult was thorough and allowed the physiotherapists experience my limitations and the extent of my injuries and what I could and could not do. A detailed medical history, some bending to check the extend of the back pain and a general idea sought of what I wanted from this service later, we were ready to begin with the basics. As I was unwell, I was deemed unfit for the water this week, however not to fear, we had alternatives.

We began with some basic exercises. The importance of my pelvic floor exercises which I honestly could do with remembering a bit more appeared straight away, as we began to test out a physio led Pilates movement, which will be one focus of the work we will be doing. While I learned that I’m better at them than I had expected, it is quite difficult to ensure you keep doing it while having to do a couple of other things in the one go too! This is definitely something I will need to practice but should hopefully notice improvement on soon, and this will help to strengthen my core, which in turn will help my back.

Thanks to my land-based state, I was afraid the morning would be a bit of a waste but I was proven wrong – it seems these ladies don’t let a little thing like lack of water affect your session. We headed upstairs to where I was zipped into an anti-gravity treadmill, definitely one of the coolest pieces of machinery I’ve ever used (check out the video below to see how it works). To replicate the lack of pressure on my muscles and joints that the water would provide, the anti-gravity bubble which the lower half of my body was wrapped in filled with air to give the sensation of only carrying 75% of my body weight. I started with a gentle walk and surprised myself by being able to go faster and faster yet feeling no pain and requiring little to no support – as someone who depends on the buggy quite a bit some days to wander the city (slightly more stylish than a Zimmer frame) this felt absolutely incredible. Both physios were able to see my gait and posture and made notes to me which I was able to change on the spot, and after fifteen minutes, it was deemed that progress had been made.

I’ve been trying a lot of things since my back injury to attempt to get back to my former self and for the first time in months it feels like this could be a breakthrough. The focus on the sessions is not just to get my back comfortable enough to sit/stand etc but also to up my fitness levels and to make it so that I can exercise and do other things like any normal 23 year old. After one session I’m already feeling more positive about my recovery than I have in a long time, so have signed up for a session each week for the next few weeks. Hopefully it stays this way, I’ll definitely be keeping you updated on my progress as this is set to be a pretty big part of my life for the next while.

The treatment certainly isn’t cheap but you get bang for your buck, as the saying goes – it’s a state of the art facility with very knowledgable staff, which does make all the difference. My assessment today cost seventy euros, and each follow up session as a non-gym member will be fifty – definitely not spare change but it will be worth it in the end.

If you’re interested in the services of these fab ladies, give the arena clinic a shout, their contact details are here.

Have you ever undergone this type of physical therapy? Did you find it worked well? What other types of therapies have you found worked for you? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to know what has worked for others.

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