Danny Caldwell was hurting so bad he was in tears when he called ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City for an appointment with Dr. Karyn Staples, physical therapist and owner of the studio.
His first visit with Karyn changed the course of his life.
For nearly 20 years, Danny endured multiple surgeries and a lot of pain, beginning with carpal tunnel and hand surgeries that cost him his dental career at age 40. It was a disappointment, but he made the best of it.
He stayed in shape by exercising and biking and never had any issues until the day he was working with a coach at the gym and “something twitched.” Then he started having problems with his legs.
It was more than a year before an MRI revealed a cyst on his spinal cord and an orthopedist diagnosed him with piriformis syndrome. It was a while longer before he understood that he had psoriatic arthritis, which he speculates is the primary cause of many of his problems.
Danny had back surgeries in 2013 and 2014 and an operation on his left wrist in 2017. After Christmas in 2018, he began having severe pain in his leg.
“I’d never had any sciatic pain in my left leg. It was awful,” Danny said.
The thought of another surgery frightened him. It had taken a long time to get over the effects of anesthesia from the last one. For six months, he said, he “just didn’t feel right.”
“When I was struggling between the second and third surgeries, I told my wife I don’t know if I want to live like this.”
But then Danny heard about a back surgeon who recommends Dr. Karyn Staples, “and nobody else.”
“I think Karyn knew when she saw me and my history that this wasn’t going away, but that we’d make me stronger,” Danny says.
Ultimately, he could not avoid the surgery, but he worked with Karyn for a month before the procedure. Danny believes having the physical therapy beforehand made recovery much easier.
Two months after the surgery, he returned to ProHealth for more physical therapy.
“I have the best doctor in the world, and I’ve had three surgeries by him,” Danny said. “Karyn’s worked with some of his patients before. He knows her. When I told him I was coming here, he was thrilled.”
“When I had PT at other places, they’d show me an exercise, give me about five minutes to practice it, and show me another one,” Danny says. He was out of the office in 15 minutes with a thick stack of papers full of exercises.
“That’s not motivating. I didn’t do them. I couldn’t do them.”
He had a completely different experience at ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio.
“Karyn only gives you like three things to do. And you do them for 30 minutes while you’re here. If you’re not doing them right, she tells you not to do them at home. Wait until you learn how to to do it right.”
As Danny progressed, Karyn began incorporating Pilates into the physical therapy after Danny’s surgery. The two worked together three times a week for a year.
“Karyn is so good about working on balance and helping you learn which way to turn and move,” Danny says. “Because I’m so fused, at first I couldn’t turn like this, driving was hard, but she’s helped me gain confidence in the strength of my fusion.”
“I want people to understand that using Pilates concepts with physical therapy makes your whole body stronger.”
The instability in Danny’s lumbar resulted in scoliosis. He credits Pilates with straightening up up the curve in his spine.
“Pilates is just a way of learning to move,” he says. “It teaches you to draw everything into that ‘X’ in the front of your body, keeping your pelvis tilted towards your belly button. All that makes you stack up straight.”
Through Pilates, he learned how breathing helps you manage pain.
“People who are in pain don’t breathe in,” he said. “We hold our breath. They taught me how to do diaphragmatic breathing.”
It took some time to master, but it made all the difference in his recovery.
“When you’re hurting, you kind of take shorter, shallower breaths, and it’s a vicious cycle. You end up all tense. Breathing like she taught me helped me relax.”
Then in March 2019, he faced a setback. At a follow-up visit with the surgeon, X-rays revealed more problems brewing in his vertebra.
“We might need to go back in and do some decompression and instrumentation,” the surgeon told him.
“You mean another surgery, right?”
“I was devastated. I came here and just boohooed to Karyn,” Danny recalls. “She sat me down and told me that if I’ll be patient and stick with the Pilates and the physical therapy, this thing might fuse itself and go away.”
“So I said, ‘well, that’s what we’ll do.’”
The two of them continued with their plan. Karyn made sure Danny was increasing his range of motion while maintaining balance and controlling the way he moved his body. No surgery yet. So far, so good.
In October 2019, Danny was able to do something he never thought he’d do again: he brought home a six-month-old chocolate lab.
“Karyn was the one who said, ‘yeah, you can do that.’ Before, I was afraid a dog like that would pull me and hurt my back. Karyn and Pilates have given me one of the best things in my life!”
Danny and Max go everywhere together. They take several four and five-mile walks a week. They work with a trainer. Max even got a “best lab in show” at a dog show in Tallahassee recently.
“It’s made the biggest difference in my life,” Danny says.
Last May, Danny experienced another setback when he ruptured his Achilles tendon, generally a weekend warrior injury for men in their 30s and 40s.
“I was walking through my living room, and I just stepped the wrong way,” Danny, 61, says. “I went down hard.”
The pain was not as intense as he had with his back, but this injury had the potential to cause many more problems.
Undeterred, but now in a boot, he continued Pilates and physical therapy with Karyn.
“She just kept going with me.”
When Danny went back to see his surgeon in February 2021, he released him.
“He said the space had fused and that my fusion looked great!”
A few weeks later, his ankle doctor said, “You’re doing great!”
The combined and cumulative effect of physical therapy and Pilates transformed Danny’s physical and mental health.
“It just makes you feel better. You feel good when you leave here, relaxed and stretched out.”
He thinks about Karyn’s cues all the time.
“Am I walking right? Am I holding myself upright? Am I sitting in my chair correctly? Am I standing correctly?”
“I kind of obsessed over Pilates for a while because I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. It’s taken me a long time to accept the fact that it’s a process. It’s an evolution… then one day you realize that you’re doing it.”
He has a message for men who think Pilates isn’t for them: “It’s not easy, and it’s not just for ladies. It’s for everybody.”
Danny’s wife, Kelly, retired from teaching last May. Recently, their son helped convince her to join her husband for duet Pilates lessons.
“Look, Mom,” their son said, “Dad goes to Pilates three or four times a week, and it seems to be doing a lot for him. Why don’t you go, too?”
“She loves it,” Danny says.
Now the two of them work out together at home between sessions and classes.
“I wish I had met Karyn Staples 20 or 25 years ago.”
He stands in her studio and reads the message on her wall all the time.
“I’ve read it a thousand times. It’s the synopsis of everything. It’s about total well-being.”
Message on the Wall at ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio
Welcome to ProHealth. You are in one of the nation’s premier wellbeing facilities, not only serving patients and clients from our local community, but delivering world-class training to physical therapists, Pilates instructors, and other health improvement practitioners from around the globe.
We want you to get the most out of the time and effort you are investing in health improvement. Of course, when it comes to your body, it is the only one you have. When you invest in Pilates or rehabilitation, you do not want to engage in training that is not beneficial or may actually increase future injury risk. Rather, it is important to retrain and reinforce proper movement patterns efficiently in a safe manner.
ProHealth is a facility certified to meet the highest healthcare standards, delivering care from certified practitioners who have comprehensive and required training and on-site supervision and guidance from one of the nation’s leading wellbeing practitioners and instructors, Karyn Staples, PT, PhD – giving you the peace of mind and confidence that you are safely optimizing your health improvement outcomes and investment of time and money.
We look forward to being a part of your continued wellbeing journey.
The Pilates Method is not just exercise. It is a series of controlled movements designed to develop strength, increase flexibility, and lengthen muscles while achieving total body awareness. At ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio, it is a customized workout utilizing Pilates equipment and mat work, which provides you with the stretching and breathing benefits of yoga and the strengthening benefits of weight training.
About ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio
ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio was founded in 2005 by Dr. Karyn Staples, PT, PhD, NCPT. She leads a staff of over a dozen physical therapists, Pilates instructors, and office support staff in providing effective research-based therapies and exercise.
ProHealth is located at 1777 Georgian Park in Peachtree City. For an appointment for physical therapy, call 770-487-1931.
If Pilates exercise is something you would like to explore, there are private lessons and classes available throughout the week at ProHealth. Call or visit https://prohealthga.com/schedule/.