2014-07-20 10.05.19
2014-07-20 10.05.31​​​​​​​Since my teenage years, I’ve continually suffered from some level of back pain. As an active person that loves biking, hiking and gardening, it’s been a constant struggle balancing these activities with pain and occasional subsequent inactivity. I have a hypermobile spine, which essentially leads to my body unwittingly overextending itself. The hypermobility, combined with a weak core, would put me in a state of muscle inflammation that I was always trying to reduce in order to get to my next activity.  Even though I’m no spring chicken, I was not at an age to start opting out of activities because of my battle with chronic back pain. This, eventually, is what led me to Pilates.

Over the course of the two prior years, my physical therapist had supported me during my periods of intense pain and helped me feel better through traction, stretching, icing and exercises. Then he’d set me free again, knowing it was only a matter of time before I’d be back in pain again, like a bird that can’t learn how to fly. Back pain felt like a toxic relationship that I could neither live with nor escape from. My PT thought Pilates would be a great way to learn how to strengthen my core muscles, especially when engaging in exercise, so I would learn to not overextend my body and eventually decrease the inflammation and discomfort I experienced so often.

As fate would have it, a Pilates studio was conveniently located next to my gym. On a whim, I walked in to inquire about the practice and how I could get involved. Little did I know that my inquiry (and the month of private lessons that followed) would be a pivotal change in my life with low back pain.

Initially, with my “Western Medicine” mind, I thought Pilates was a bunch of mumbo jumbo or at best just another fad to mix into my workouts. But despite my skepticism, I was a good sport and I knew when to eat my hat. Yes, it initially drained my brain to think about my internal workings, to ‘tighten my pelvic floor’ and ‘pull on my internal suspenders’.  Tamar, my first teacher, had the gift of articulating what I needed to visualize in order to be successful in my sessions. After each lesson, I felt mentally and physically exhausted, but something was changing and my back pain was starting to diminish.
Movements like ‘feet in straps’ taught me how to hold a neutral spine while moving my legs and stabilizing my pelvis. In Short Box, ‘flat back tilts’ were challenging and strengthening my core, while cues like ‘lift out of your hips’ and ‘keep your spine neutral’ would help me to not strain my back. My core was getting stronger and I was learning how to control my spinal articulation.
Private lessons turned into group sessions and before I knew it, a year had passed. My Pilates training went beyond the studio and I was translating positions and techniques into real world experiences to engage my core, stabilize my hypermobile spine and minimize my back pain. While driving, for example, instead of sinking into my seat, I would tighten my core, rotate my hips, and roll my shoulders back and concentrate on my posture. Working out at the gym, I learned how to use Pilates cues to get a quality workout, but not have the aftermath of a strained back. Bike riding was more focused on correct posture, using leg muscles, rotating my hips and not pulling from my low back when I would fatigue. I was finding strength and stability in simple movements from sitting in a chair to walking down stairs in high heels. I became more in control of my movements and no longer threw myself about like a wet towel.
2014-07-20 10.03.36My husband had seen this transformation in me as well. My back wasn’t getting as inflamed after activity; I was taking less pain medication and no longer needed cortisone shots and steroids to get by. Three years ago, he joined me in some of my classes to help with flexibility issues and to this day, we still travel 50 miles round trip to get to our favorite Pilates studio.
Between Pilates and icing my back after particularly tough workouts, I’ve mastered managing my own pain. In fact, this regimen worked so well for me that I started designing thermal therapy clothing and gear to help others manage pain and inflammation. My company, Spand-Ice, helps regular people ice and heat hard to reach body parts, like back and hips, in an easy and more comfortable way as they go about their days. Some users of these products find them to be a great alternative to popping pain medication.
I am the type of person that likes to give 100% to every single task I take on. I am always going to overdo it. However, I also believe that people should not be held back by their pain. They should be empowered to find a way to life live and treat pain at the same time. That is what Spand-Ice aims to achieve.

Helen Behn is the Founder and Inventor of Spand-Ice: Thermal Therapy Gear for life. Her products are available online at www.spand-ice.com and can be shipped all over the world.

helen3_webHelen Behn is the Founder and Inventor of Spand-Ice, a business she started in 2012 to help people manage pain.

Helen graduated from the University of Connecticut with two undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Communications. For over fifteen years she has worked in product and project management in commerce, e-commerce and marketing arenas from Fortune 500 companies to professional sports and young startups. Located in Pittsburgh PA, Helen has just completed her Certificate of Excellence with the Small Business Development Center with the University of Pittsburgh. She continues to work medical professionals on new product development to help more people suffering from body pains and disease.

Spand-Ice is a Pittsburgh women owned business designing and manufacturing therapy products in the United States. The business originated with a wearable garment for back pain and has expanded into additional product lines, including a new wrap for pregnant women providing hot and cold therapy, compression and belly support.