Skip to content

I Struggled With Chronic Pain for 4 Years — But This Workout Changed Everything

Andrea Speir
Author:
December 10, 2022
Andrea Speir
Celebrity Trainer
By Andrea Speir
Celebrity Trainer
Andrea Speir is a celebrity trainer, certified pilates instructor, and head of content at Reform RX.
Andrea Speir pilates headshot
Image by Andrea Speir
December 10, 2022
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.
While some health issues are visible to the outside world, many people face chronic conditions that don't have externally visible signs or symptoms—also known as invisible illnesses. In mindbodygreen's series, we're giving individuals with invisible illnesses a platform to share their personal experiences. Our hope is their stories will shed light on these conditions and offer solidarity to others facing similar situations.
Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

From the time I was 5 years old, I knew I wanted to be onstage. Starting in elementary school, I was in dance classes, voice lessons, acting classes—I immersed myself in that whole world. Because I loved performing so much, I really started pushing myself from a young age. I was certain this was going to be my path; there was no question.

One event shook up my whole world.

My senior year of high school, I felt like I was on top of the world as I prepared to start a new chapter of my life. I had just wrapped my biggest theater role to date, and I was about to begin college as a drama and dance major, focusing on musical theater. Then, before moving to my new school, I got into a car accident. At the time, doctors confirmed I broke my collarbone, but there weren't any other major injuries. I noticed one of my ribs also didn't feel right, but I was told they were fine.

After recovering from my collarbone injury, the pain and discomfort in my rib didn't go away. The sensation was often like being on a roller coaster, I would feel like my stomach was lifting, and I couldn't take full breaths. I saw multiple specialists, but no one could explain what was going on. So I went on to college, kept performing, kept dancing, and kept pushing myself.

But nearly four years after my car accident, my rib was getting worse. There was something so jarring about the fact that it was right in my midsection, in the center of my body, the area that was supposed to give me power and balance while performing.

I was young, and I had trouble advocating for myself, even though deep down I knew something was wrong in my body. However, it was so hard to know what to do when specialists were telling me I was fine.

That is, until the day I passed out onstage. My rib had shifted so it was pushing against my lung, and I couldn't breathe. I went to the emergency room, where the doctors confirmed my rib was broken. They guessed that during my car accident, there was a slight break, and then it got worse and worse and worse until it was a full break. Again, they reassured me it would heal itself. But it hadn't happened previously, so I was skeptical.

At that point, I was at a pivotal moment: I thought I knew what my life was supposed to be, and I was determined to be onstage. But suddenly, I was forced to take a step back and be introspective about whether or not that was the right choice for my health.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

I began recovering under surprising circumstances.

This wasn't the first injury I'd experienced as a performer. I'd hurt my knee a couple of times in the past, and while I was recovering, I did Pilates. I immediately connected with the practice, and it always helped me feel better. While my rib was healing, I decided to take the time to get stronger and learn more about my body, so I started back up with Pilates.

During this whole time, I kept assuring myself I'd be fine, and I was going to get better. Of course, I was lying to myself—I had no idea what was going to happen, and I was scared. But I needed to mentally get myself through this healing journey. Ultimately, I knew on the other side of this recovery, I would get back onstage.

There's something about the way the Pilates reformer worked with my body; I could feel my spine aligning and my core stabilizing. It was like my abdominals began to work like a corset, the deepest layer of my abs began wrapping around to hold my ribs in place. As a result, I started to feel better and better. I was shocked. All this time, doctors had told me the rib would get better and heal itself, but it wasn't until Pilates that I truly felt a difference.

My experience led me on a whole new life path.

After experiencing such a major change from this specific kind of movement, I wanted to pass that assistance on to other people—so after college, I decided to get certified as a Pilates instructor.

The joy I got from relaying that knowledge was so much more than I could have ever expected. I wouldn't have chosen to go to Pilates if I hadn't been injured. But because I did, I discovered that working with other people gave me so much gratitude and fulfilled me in a way that I didn't experience when I was just performing.

While I didn't initially expect to make Pilates my entire career, I soon experienced a light bulb moment: I realized I could fuse so many of the things I love (performing, moving my body, etc.) to help other people with their wellness and longevity.

Since then, I started working with private clients and then opened my own studio. Ever since I dove into this path, my goal was to make Pilates more available to everybody. Recently, I joined Reform RX, a digitally connected Pilates reformer, as their head of content. My goal with our virtual classes and programs is to reach people all over the world and educate them with workouts from the best instructors. It truly feels like we're on the precipice of the next stage of fitness.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

What I wish I could tell my younger self. 

I really feel like everything that happened in my life led me to be exactly where I was meant to be. When you're following your strengths and what makes you happy, you might land somewhere even better than you imagined. Instead of forcing the path, let the path open to you.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.
Andrea Speir
Andrea Speir
Celebrity Trainer

Celebrity trainer Andrea Speir is head of content at Reform RX. A veteran in the Pilates scene with over 18 years of experience, she has notched accolades like being named a “Top Fitness Star” by Women’s Health and dubbed the “Princess of Pilates” by Cyberobics. With a specialty degree from Stanford University in physiology and a comprehensive certification in Pilates and apparatus instruction, Andrea is both knowledgeable and passionate about everything Pilates and fitness.