Something unexpected, like a severe injury, can have an extraordinary impact on your life. How this impact will influence you and your life will remain always up to you and your choices. Every person has a different story to look back to. My story, as the one’s close to me say, was a raise from the dead. It is a story about falling and learning how to stand back up again. It is a story about injury, recovery and important lessons that I have learned along the way. A story that I hope it will end with a vision of giving.
I am a normal person just like you and I have been in pain. I know what it means to wish to be healthier, to wish to look better. To dream not to feel insecure and not to suffer from chronic back pain. Maybe the difference between us is that I got the chance to discover the miracle of a healthy lifestyle early in my life. 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.
Before the injury
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 that was it. I told myself “Wow, I want to look like her one day!”. That’s how it all started, with fitness and bodybuilding. 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. 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. This gave me 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. The following year, in 2006 I became National Champion in both Bodybuilding and Bodyfitness and I also became the winner of the female open category. This year I also competed in the World Championship in Italy where I placed fifth. Finally, in 2007 I defended my title at the National Championchips and won. Many magazines and local television programs contacted me for Fitness Modelling events, professional photo-shootings and show appearances.
I ended my short athletic career in the fitness and bodybuilding world (if it can be called like that) shortly after that. In 2008 I decided I wasn’t willing to go the extra mile to be able to compete at a senior level and win. Some things went totally against my values. Looking good doesn’t always equal being healthy. 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. However, I continued the competition with myself many years after that.
In 2012 I became an amateur Powerlifter. I was able to achieve really good results (RAW: 60kg Benchpress, 122,5 kg Deadlifts and 115 kg Squats, at a bodyweight of 55 kg). I would be lying though if I said, I didn’t miss the competition at this point. This is why I kept pushing my self without thinking of consequences. I did not think of the possibility of an injury. I focused on my plan to compete. Hard work, day in and day out and by the end of 2012 I decided to compete in Powerlifting competitions. My dream never came true, for in 2013 my life has changed forever.
2013 – year of the injury
It was February 2013. I went to the gym as usual for a normal training session. I attempted a new PR in deadlifts (125 kg-RAW). Suddenly, I heard a loud popping sound coming from my lower back (later I found out it was the sacroiliac joint) and fell to the ground. What should have been a normal training session transformed into a moment that would not allow me to stand back up.
What should have been a training session out of which I should have came out stronger, turned into one out from which I came out broken and with an injury. An injury that was so bad, I ended up bedridden for the next 8 months. 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 unable to work, unable to move and a financial burden for my family. I was disabled. Despite going to different doctors all over Europe and trying various therapies available on the market, no one knew what the problem was.
Many visits to different orthopaedic doctors ended up creating more confusion than a solution to my pain. One specialist would tell me that I have a dislocation to my lower back. Another specialist would say that the cervical spine vertebrae are dislocated. All those things were true, but it was the partial truth. No doctor really analyzed what happened before the injury. None of them took the time to see how I moved before the injury happened. There was no specialist who took the time to track down all these issues to one single event. I ended up with partial solutions that would partially fix some issues (so the theory goes).
I ended up even discussing surgeries with some of the doctors. Spinal fusion was the only solution they could come up with. A quick fix, even though there was no evidence supporting the need for it. I refused to think about this solution. Mostly, I didn’t want to do it because I was just 23 years old. I knew that a back surgery will set up for me a lifelong journey of countless surgeries. This would have made me unable to do sport again, so I completely rejected it.
I did countless MRIs, CT scans and XRays to figure out the problem. These scans wouldn’t show anything so most doctors from 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.
Since I couldn’t find a solution in the hospitals I searched for other methods. I started going to the chiropractor during the summer of 2013, and after one of the visits, something went wrong. Something snapped during one of the manipulations. My back was not only in pain but stuck in a fixed position. I couldn’t move properly with one side of my body. This situation was even worse than how I was immediately after the injury happened in February.
At this point I was in a lot of pain. I was searching desperately for a solution. I found an ex-tennis player from Finland that had a similar injury in the past and he seemed to have solved it. He suggested to visit a “bone setter”, this is actually how he described it, in Finland in the city of Lahti. Out of desperation, I flew together with my husband to Helsinki and then drove to Lahti to see this man. To keep it short, the treatment didn’t help. Well, except maybe a bit of pain relief for a few hours, but then it got worse again.
Back in Munich. I was bedridden until early October when I decided to visit another chiropractor to try to snap back my bones into a different position. I was hoping to breathe properly and move a little bit, at least as I did before. The same chiropractic clinic, but a different chiropractor. This visit made a difference and I could at least not be stuck in the same position. The pain was still there. My body became weaker and weaker, but at least I was not laying in bed 100% of the time. Regular chiropractor visits kept me from not being able to move to barely move, but it was better than nothing.
2014 – 2016
Time went by and my spine got more and more unstable. The pain levels went up so much that I couldn’t sleep, eat or breathe anymore without excruciating pain. My spine also twisted to one side enough so that my rib cage turned to the right. This meant my ribs were now touching my lungs. This made it very difficult and painful to breathe. Lack of oxygen lead to a lot of dizziness and a slower heart rate. One day I ended up at the emergency room not feeling my arms and legs anymore because of poor blood flow.
All the time spent laying in bed and breathing shallowly left my heart not pumping blood as it should. My arms and legs went eventually numb. I had to rub them to feel something. 2014 was a bad year for my family financially, so I had to find a job. I started my office job in February, while using pain killers and other medicine to try to numb my pain. My body was keeping track so my condition got worse, even though the pain medication tricked my brain a little bit.
Every bit of free time was invested in learning and researching anatomy books and therapies, contacting doctors and other specialist. I did not stop trying to find a solution my injury. Time was not on my side, and soon 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 I went to the clinics, doctors thought the same. It just wasn’t possible. But they never really made any additional tests to check.
Time went by and nothing seemed to help. My SI(sacroiliac) joint was still stuck, my spine twisted and my symptoms were getting worse by the day. I tried rolfing at some point which offered relief temporarily. Then IMT, Integrative Manual Therapy. It seemed like nothing helped. I started to buy the textbooks that these experts were thought from in school to try to do my own research. Maybe they were missing something. Maybe I could find the missing piece.
Physiotherapy books, anatomy books, Integrative Manual Therapy books were the decorations in my apartment. By the end of 2016 I was left in bed permanently because of chronic spinal instability. I started experiencing heart de-conditioning. My heart went into spasm every 3 hours because I was bedridden.
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. I told myself continuously that as long as I had my mind intact I could put things back together. 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. I was hoping that the pain will end with it too. That 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.
At this point, I had already gained around 20-25 kilograms. My body changed to the point that you couldn’t even tell anymore that I used to be a fit person before. 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 and what it means to gain bad habits over time.I know how it feels to think there is no way out. However, deep down the last sparkle of hope never died. I refused to give up!
I continued to read and experiment at home with different therapy techniques. I gained some knowledge by trial and error of the issue I was facing myself with. During the night, I would use my husband as my personal chiropractor/physiotherapist or whatever I needed to try to put my body back into place. Some techniques made things better, others made things worse. We would end up staying up all night to figure out how to get me into my initial condition which was not as painful.
Four years after my injury, my husband and I were finally able to find a way to manipulate my SI joint back into place. The problem was that it was popping out very often. It kept going out with every small movement I did. That’s how I realised that the problem was joint instability. I immediately started my research again on joint stabilisation methods which did not involve surgery. That’s how I found out about Prolotherapy.
I have tried the prolotherapy in Munich, but it didn’t bring much. By reading what the founders of prolotherapy were saying, the dosage was too small. Since there are some regulations in Germany about this therapy, I took a risk and tried my luck in Rome Italy. That’s where I found a doctor that was using the same high dosages as the American experts.
Travelling to Rome brought me the first complete diagnosis. I was diagnosed 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, an impingement in almost every joint of my body, rotoscoliosis caused by the dislocation, twisted ribcage and compressed lungs were completing my diagnosis results.
On top of these there were also 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.
The doctor from Italy was an orthopaedic doctor trained in the US. He had a lot of knowledge on chiropractic treatments, spine instability, and prolotherapy. The therapy itself was very painful, involving hundreds of injections in my spine ligaments in one session. These were supposed to cause local inflammation in my ligaments, create scar tissue and tighten the ligaments. This was supposed to help with the instability problem, but it didn’t.
The next days, after landing at Munich airport, my lower back was so tight that I couldn’t walk anymore. I used a wheelchair to get to the car. Three days after the therapy, I ended up in the emergency room. The tightness in my lower back and the abdominal area got so bad that my organs became compressed and I passed out. I ended up unconscious on the hospital bed. Luckily I got enough medication that relaxed my body and I was able to go home.
After so many unsuccessful therapies I also kind of lost trust in doctors. I understood that I had to take responsibility for my injury.I started learning even more about anatomy, biomechanics, physiotherapy and many other subjects while analysing my body. The good thing at this point was that my mind wasn’t focused on pain anymore. It was focused on analysing the effects of each therapy and on documentation. I also refused to take painkillers during this 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. During the day, my husband was going to work and I was sleeping because I was exhausted. After a few months, gaining knowledge about the influence of posture in all of this, my journey took me also to Leeds, UK. Here is where I visited 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. However, he knew he wasn’t able to help me in such a short time and I also couldn’t pay him. I “borrowed” from him his PRI courses because he really wanted to help and wished me luck.
2018 – back from injury
I have spent months reading and learning the principles of PRI and over three years buying other rehabilitation books, rehabilitation equipment like water therapy, elastic bands, inversion table, trampoline and everything on the subject that you can 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, but it started to pay off. I started to slowly implement the principles I have learned over the years of trial and error. Small movements initially, as small as 20 seconds holds, after which my nervous system would be so tired that I would need a one hour nap.
As time went by and as I kept putting in the work, day in and day out, my body started to get stronger and I could move more and more. This gave me hope, and for the first time in a while, I started to believe that there was a way out of this injury for me. From static holds to normal plank exercises took months. Then I started to walk more. I was focusing on every step that I took, to make sure I walk equally on both legs.
Everything was about balance now. I would even brush my teeth one minute with the right hand and one minute with the left so that I train every movement pattern on both sides of my body in the same way. I relearned every movement that I used to take for granted, from walking to sitting to chewing food. It was an exhausting process that I had to go through.
I realised at this point that it is impossible for any doctor, no matter how competent, to undertake such difficult and time-consuming therapy commitment with a patient regardless of their injury. It was all up to me. However, the right path is important to be set before starting a journey like this, and this is where knowledge and experience come into play.
I am now very happy to say 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. I refused to give in because I wanted to be able to do sports again. I wanted to move and be healthy.
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 to stop hurting is 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 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. I am secretly hoping to be able to uncover it’s most hidden secrets someday. My biggest role models are Vladimir Janda with his famous book on muscle imbalances and Ron Hruska from the Postural Restoration Institute from the USA.
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 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 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, what you 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 prevent injuries from happening. 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 used to think that 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. 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, as they are your friends. They have the purpose to help you. Don’t perceive them as your enemies, trying to hold you back from achieving your next PR. I could say so much on this subject, 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. I can do things with my body that I never thought I would ever do again. I love to be able to see what my body can do. 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. They help you understand, what’s truly important in life.
My injury thought me a lesson that I needed to learn. I needed to learn to quiet down my athletic ego and to start listening to my body. Whether you believe it or not, it has been my biggest gift. I ended up thinking of it as “The gift of injury”. It was a curse and a blessing at the same time. A journey from which I have learned so much. A journey that, without that pain that came with the injury, wouldn’t have been possible. 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 have the eyes that allow me to know how to bring your body to full functionality from the knowledge of prevention and recovery that I gained throughout this period. I can bring your mind to balance and teach you how and when to push for more because I also have the experience of athletic performance. This gives me the courage to push you enough to become healthier, more active and full of life.