THE GIFT OF INJURY
“The only limits that exist are the ones in your own mind!”
Every person has a different journey to look back to but many call MihaPower a raise from the dead. It is a story about falling and learning how to stand back up again. It is a story of injury recovery and important lessons that I have learned along the way, which hopefully will end with a vision of giving. I am a normal person really, just like you. I know what it means to wish to be healthier, to wish to look better, to feel insecure and to suffer from chronic back pain. The difference is that I got the chance to discover the miracle of a healthy lifestyle early in my life and even when I was lost on my path, I always struggled to find ways to come back to that healthy state and this is what I want to share with you.
My journey in the health and fitness industry began back in 2003 when I was just 13 years old. One day I saw a poster with Monica Brant and I told myself “Wow, I want to look like her one day!”. That’s how it all started. Different reasons attracted me to this sport but the most important ones were probably the need to defend myself and to gain respect. I grew up in a small town in Romania, in a bad neighbourhood which, let’s just say, it’s not the ideal place where a young girl can grow up, especially if she doesn’t have parents. But what kept me in this sport was the fact that I felt it made me more confident, healthier, calmer and better as a person.
For the next 5 years, I competed in IFBB Bodybuilding competitions and had the chance to learn a lot about different topics like athletic performance, losing weight, gaining muscle, training, diet, nutrition, injury prevention, mental coaching and many others. In 2005 I placed third in the Romanian National Championship. In 2006 I became National Champion in both Bodybuilding and Bodyfitness and I also became the winner of the female open category. In 2006 I also competed in the World Championship in Italy where I placed fifth. In 2007 I defended my title and won my third title as National Champion. Many magazines and local television programs contacted me for Fitness Modelling events, professional photo-shootings and show appearances.
My short athletic career (if it can be called like that) came to an end in 2008 when I decided I wasn’t willing to go the extra mile in order to be able to compete at a senior level and win, as some things went totally against my personal values. Looking good doesn’t always equal health but being healthy will always translate into looking good and that’s a big value of mine. I started this sport because of the health benefits and I wasn’t willing to compromise on that for increased performance on the stage but I continued the competition with myself many years after that. In 2012 I became an amateur Powerlifter and was able to achieve really good PRs (RAW: 60kg Benchpress, 122,5 kg Deadlifts and 115 kg Squats, I weighted 55 kg). I would be lying though if I said, I didn’t miss the competition and soon I decided to compete in Powerlifting competitions. My dream never came true, for in 2013 my life has changed forever.
It was February 2013, I went to the gym as usual and attempted a new PR in deadlifts (125 kg-RAW). I suddenly heard a loud popping sound coming from my SI joint and fell to the ground and could not stand back up for 6 months after that. The deadlift would become later on the most anxiety-provoking word for me. The simple thought of it gave me a panic attack instantly.
After that day, I was left unable to work, unable to move and a financial burden for my family. I was disabled and despite going to different doctors all over Europe and trying all the therapies available on the market, no one knew what the problem was. Some told me that I should learn to live with the pain and to stop doing sport, others said I should have back surgery (SI joint fixation) even though there was no evidence supporting the need of it. Mostly, I didn’t want to do it because I was just 23 years old and I knew that a back surgery will set up for me a lifelong journey of countless surgeries which will make me unable to do sport again, so I rejected it. The MRIs and X-Rays didn’t show anything so most doctors and hospitals diagnosed me with psychosomatic back pain and send me home countless of times. I would come to learn later on that joint instability cannot be measured with such devices. Four years went by, my spine got more and more unstable, my pain levels went up so much that I couldn’t sleep, eat or breathe anymore without excruciating pain. I started experiencing neurological distress like dropping stuff, falling, dizziness, weakness in my arms and legs, sight problems, jaw pain, swallowing problems, fainting, breathing problems and many others. Every time, doctors thought the same. It just wasn’t possible. But they never really made any additional tests to check.
Finally, I was left in bed permanently because of chronic spinal instability and started experiencing heart deconditioning. My heart went into spasm every 3 hours because I was bed ridden. I started spending all my time and physical energy on reading countless books on anatomy, physiology, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, manual therapy and countless other related subjects and told myself continuously that as long as I had my mind intact I could put things back together but to be very honest, at that point I didn’t have too much hope left that I would ever be able to recover. I felt so useless that I just wanted to die, hoping that the pain will end with it too and I would stop being a financial burden for my family. I couldn’t take the fact that from that strong and independent woman who I used to be, I became a woman dependent on other people not only for financial support and shelter but also for really basic stuff like eating and using the bathroom. However, deep down the last sparkle of hope never died. I refused to give up!
At this point, I had already gained around 20-25 kilograms and my body changed to the point that you couldn’t even tell anymore that I used to be a fit person before. As you can already imagine, this created a lot of insecurities and low self-esteem. I really know how you feel, as I mentioned at the beginning. I know about your challenges, I know what it means to gain bad habits over time and I know how it feels to think there is no way out.
Four years after my injury, my husband and I were finally able to find a way to manipulate my SI joint back into place but it didn’t stay. It kept going out with every small movement I did. That’s how I realized that the problem was joint instability and immediately started my research on joint stabilization methods which did not involve surgery. That’s how I found out about Prolotherapy.
I finally found a doctor in Italy that was able to help me. There I got the first correct diagnosis. He diagnosed me with dislocated sacrum, sprained and overstretched SI joint ligaments, knee ligaments, lumbar ligaments, hip ligaments caused by my bad biomechanics and gait patterns over the years, other 9 dislocated vertebrae in my spine, impingement in almost every joint of my body, rotoscoliosis caused by the dislocation, twisted ribcage and compressed lungs, chronic spine instability, SI joint instability, cervical instability, head instability, countless syndromes like Iliopsoas or Piriformis Syndrome, hundreds of muscle imbalances, nerve compression syndromes, especially in the pelvic region and cervical spine, neurological dysfunction with early MS (Multiple Sclerosis) symptoms, heart deconditioning, many atrophied muscles (including my left diaphragm), Dysautonomia (the autonomic nervous system didn’t work properly anymore) and POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). I thought, that finally explained my symptoms.
He called all that “a different kind of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome”. The difference in my case was that I wasn’t born with a genetic soft tissue illness like a normal EDS patient but I acquired it through long-term unresolved dislocation and joint instability of the most important structures of the spine. Here you can read more about a similar case of someone with true EDS.
The doctor from Italy was an orthopaedic doctor trained in the US, with a lot of knowledge of chiropractic treatments, spine instability, and prolotherapy. The therapy itself was very painful, involving hundreds of injections in my spine ligaments that were supposed to cause local inflammation in my ligaments, create scar tissue and tighten the ligaments. After a few months, I started recovering and I felt very lucky that I had found him. He recommended that I start a physiotherapy program immediately but in Germany, the health insurance only pays for 18 sessions of 30 minutes/each per year and I needed way more. As I couldn’t afford to pay for them privately, I needed to find other solutions.
After so many unsuccessful therapies I also kind of lost trust in doctors, to be honest as I have understood that most of them don’t even believe me, so I understood that I had to take responsibility for my injury and I started learning even more about anatomy, biomechanics, physiotherapy and many other subjects, while analyzing my body. The good thing at this point was that my mind wasn’t focused on pain anymore but on analyzing the effects of each therapy and on documentation. I also refused to take painkillers during the entire time because I thought, the pain levels will act as feedback and will let me know if my therapy is working or not. At night, my husband and I were reading books and trying therapies and during the day, my husband was going to work and I was sleeping because I was exhausted. After a few months, I also went to the UK to see the only PRI therapist in Europe who was working with a different kind of physiotherapy called PRI (Postural Restoration Institute), developed in the USA. He saw my desperation and understood how long my recovery road had been and knew he wasn’t able to help me in such a short time and I also couldn’t pay him, but he really wanted to help me and “borrowed” me his PRI courses and wished me luck.
I have spent months reading and learning the principles of PRI and over 12 months buying other rehabilitation books, rehabilitation equipment like water therapy, elastic bands, inversion table, trampoline and everything on the subject that you can possibly imagine, learning how to use them for rehabilitation purposes, developing my own physiotherapy and rehabilitation program at home. The last 5 years of my life have been a 24/7 university, I have now completed 1 year of rehabilitation therapy and I am now very happy to report that I am almost healthy again, experiencing just mild symptoms from time to time. I also discovered along the way that I have a huge passion for this subject which will allow me to treat every client with the highest level of expertise and responsibility possible. Surgeries are sometimes inevitable but they can certainly be avoided most of the times and I have proved that. No doctor, however, is ready to undertake such difficult and time-consuming therapy commitment with a patient. I refused to give in because I wanted to be able to do sports again.
That’s how much I loved it. My biggest dream is to become the strongest version of myself and my physical strength is a part of that too. I could not accept that the only solution to stop my pain was to stop moving. Maybe I am crazy but in my opinion, the body was made for movement so telling me to stop moving in order to stop hurting was not a solution. For me movement is life and without it, I feel dead on the inside. Life just doesn’t make sense anymore without the ability to move and this is what I wish for all of you.
My own recovery continues nevertheless but it’s the greatest journey ever as it allows me to learn new things every day and it satisfies my need for continuous growth. I also find the human body to be the most exciting thing on this earth and I am secretly hoping to be able to uncover it’s most hidden secrets some day. My biggest role models are Vladimir Janda with his famous book on muscle imbalances and Ron Hruska from the Postural Restoration Institute from Uthe SA. These are the fundamental concepts of everything I applied in my own therapy and which I will be applying in my rehabilitation training programs for my clients. My vision is to combine my athletic knowledge and my newly acquired skills in rehabilitation in order to help as many people as possible. No matter whether you are a normal person suffering from bad posture or with back pain, joint instability or muscle tightness or an athlete struggling to come back to your game after an injury or someone who just wants to get healthier, lose weight and get in a better shape, I will do my best to help you achieve your goals.
One of my biggest values is the fact that health comes first for all my clients and this means that I am not going to recommend any damaging substances for losing weight fast, increasing muscle mass fast or strength or overall performance. Being an ex-athlete, I know what it takes to build performance and I don’t stand for FAST results. FAST results are expensive illusions which normally require a trade. Usually, the trade is your long-term health which goes against my life principles. This doesn’t mean that I am committed to slower results either. I am committed to whatever gives us the best results within healthy parameters. This also means that before starting anything else, I’ll make sure that your posture is corrected, your muscle imbalances are sorted out in order to injuries from happening and I will make sure that your body is in a good shape for gradually increased effort in order to achieve your goal.
MihaPower starts as a Personal Training idea but the big vision is much more complex than that. It strives to fly over the top of the mountains and to be able to spread health over as many people as possible. The name MihaPower is formed from “Miha”- my name and “Power” which for me it symbolizes something important. “Power” means strength and I truly believe that strength in any of its forms means health. Of course, I don’t want to say that lifting weights equals strength. For me, the word strength has gained a totally new dimension since my injury. It is the state of your body in which it can perform at it’s best and when it is the healthiest. It is a state of balance, energy, physical and mental strength. With this idea in mind and with my acquired knowledge, I walk on my journey of changing people’s lives for the better and helping them become strong(er) versions of themselves.
You might be tempted to think at this point that sport or lifting weights were the cause of my injury. I was too… But you see, sport is the greatest and healthiest thing you can ever do… as long as you do it right! That means using the proper technique at all times is a must, especially for beginners. If you are a professional athlete, you need to learn to kill your ego sometimes and learn to enjoy those injury prevention programs that most of us would rather skip, if you want to be able to hit your PRs long-term. It also means you need to learn to listen to your body’s warning signals. They are your friends and have the purpose to help you and not your enemies, trying to hold you back from achieving your next PR. There is much to be said on this subject and I will probably do it in another article but the main idea is this: Sport is great! You just got to do it right! That’s why you’ll never be able to replace a Personal Coach with an iPhone app.
I am now able to train daily and today the word deadlift doesn’t give me anxiety anymore. More than that, today I can live again, and I hope I will be able to hit again some athletic performance numbers and shape. But this time around, I am doing it right! I am sure I will never be the same person again because of this experience. Such things have the potential to completely change the way you see life and it helps you understand, what’s truly important in life.
My injury was a lesson that I needed to learn. I needed to learn to quiet down my athletic ego and to start listening to my body and whether you believe it or not, it has been my biggest gift. People take many things for granted but the biggest one is their health. We normally don’t pay attention to our body’s warning signals before it starts to hurt and then is usually too late. I am passionate about preventing such things from happening to you if you let me.
In the end, I learned to appreciate really small things in life, things that most people take for granted, like a walk in the park or riding the bike on a sunny day. I have learned that life is way too short and you never know when all might end, so you better enjoy it while you can. I also learned that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. I learned that the power to never give up is a lot more rewarding than any shortcut you might ever choose in life and that the only limits we have, are the ones we impose for ourselves. This experience has thought me that challenging the status-quo has the power to turn impossible into possible and it has allowed me to finally break free out of a job that I didn’t like in order to pursue my real passion. In the end, I understood that problems are life’s biggest gifts and it is up to us to either let them destroy our lives or to build upon them and become stronger and better than ever before because of them.
I am committed to living a healthy and balanced life for the rest of my life and it is my dream to inspire and help as many of you as possible to do the same.