I was able to get back onto the real tennis court

Avoiding surgery and playing real tennis at 82

I first went to see Nick Potter and Jon Bowskill in May 2000; I was 72. A scan a few weeks earlier had confirmed my GP’s suspicion that I had spinal stenosis and an L 4/5 problem. I had by then seen three specialists, one of whom wished to operate straight away and the others felt it was still a bit early to do so; but neither of them gave much help about how I could ease the pain. At that stage I was only able to walk about 150 yards without resting and I found it almost impossible to stand up for more than five minutes.

I saw Nick Potter on a regular basis during the first six months, but he had always stressed that it would be Jon and his exercises, which would cure me. Although I have been a ball game player all my life, I was certainly not an exercise buff; in fact if the truth be known I was rather averse to them, though I should add that my wife has always been something of a yoga/pilates fan and was very opposed to the idea of a surgical operation on a back. She knew of people, who had cured really serious back problems through exercising their stomach muscles.

So there I was in Nick and Jon’s hands. Jon examined me for balance and straightness, etc. He then gave a number of exercises. Very boring and quite tiresome! But I knew that my best hope in curing myself lay in these exercises. Gradually, the pain began to ease. After about eight months I was fairly pain-free, but the pain could come and go a bit. Jon increased the intensity of the exercise as the months went by. After about two and a half years I was able to get back onto the Real Tennis court, and at 79 I am still playing regularly once a week.

As I have mentioned Jon increases the intensity of my exercises about every six months. I know that, even after having done these exercises for over 7 years, my back is stronger today than it was last year. And yes, I still do these somewhat boring exercises three times a week as laid down by Jon: and our exercise ball has become very much part of our lives; sitting on it to watch TV and using our computers. I know my fitness depends on all this.

– Michael Constantinidi

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