I’m lying on my stomach, face down on a spa table as instructed, when Sandra Serrano grabs my knees and turns them sideways. I’m startled, but my spinal column opens up immediately and relief courses down my back. I don’t have time to savour the moment — in a few seconds, I return to the starting position and she’s twisting my legs in the opposite direction.
Over the next hour here at the Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre, the osteopath and physiotherapist puts me through a low-intensity workout designed specially for me. I stretch, twist and move, popping joints and working muscles that haven’t been used in what seems like years.
I didn’t know I was so stiff everywhere, which, I realise as she pulls and stretches my skin, is perhaps an indication of how out of touch with my body I am. I’ve been skipping my yoga sessions and it shows.
Serrano says it all comes down to movement. My chronic back pain, she says, is because I don’t move enough. The Spanish national’s view is that while doctors are quick to diagnose intervertebral disc issues and prescribe bedrest and painkillers, patients would benefit from more frequent movement and routines such as yoga and pilates.
Back pain affects a large number of cubicle slaves across the Emirates, with estimates varying between 20 to 60 per cent of the population. We’d all be better off if we got off our behinds and moved more — a lot more. Serrano recommends short bursts of activity at least five days a week.
Her approach is markedly different from those of previous therapists, most of which largely focused on electromuscular stimulation. While that has its place, particularly for patients whose muscles need to be reactivated after surgery or particularly acute episodes, I like the idea that moving more could mean pain-free days.
But movement isn’t the only weapon in Serrano’s toolkit. Besides taking me through various stretches, she kneads my upper back with strength that belies her tiny frame, pulls at and releases my skin to improve circulation, and in what must be one of the most calming things anyone can do, lightly cups and massages my occipital lobe and neck.
At the end of the 90-minute session, then, my lumbar region has magically unknotted itself and I walk straighter and more easily. I’m sore the next day, as she warned, but in general, I’m in less pain over the week, before the stiffness begins to return. This time, though, I’m forewarned — a few sun salutations and I’m on the mend again. It seems I must embrace movement if my life is to change.
Physiotherapy sessions at Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre last 50 minutes and cost Dh400. Gulf News was a guest of the centre. To book, call 04 3351200 or log on to dubaihtc.com