Participant Stories

Kris King Relieves Back Pain with Juniper Classes


Scoliosis and osteoporosis had taken a toll on Kris King, leading to spine surgery in 2019. Kris spent almost a year in a back brace with no bending, twisting or lifting. She had just started physical therapy in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sending her home with a prescription to walk and do recommended exercises on her own.

Kris King at Minnesota state parkManaging the pain

Determined to heal and stop the pain, Kris did her best to follow her physical therapist’s directions but was frustrated with going from exercises and machines that were strengthening her para-spinal muscles to what she simply defines as stretches. “The exercises were pretty lame, and I had quite a bit of back pain most of the time,” she admits. “Honestly, pulling weeds in the garden did more for me.”

Then in the fall of 2021, Kris found Juniper. “One of my knitting friends told me about Juniper classes and suggested I try the Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance Zoom class. It helped a lot. Then I took the Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) class, and between the two classes, I am now pain-free most of the time!”

Performing exercises that improve strength, balance and fitness is the single most important activity adults can do to stay active and reduce their chances of falling. Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance is an evidence-based falls prevention program that is known to help older adults improve balance, prevent falls and retain independence. Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) is a strength, balance and fitness program for adults 65 and older.

Kris feels Tai Ji Quan is good for her back because it’s slow-moving with a focus on balance and stretching. She says, “Shifting my feet and stepping to prevent falls works my accessory muscles and my core.” And for Kris, SAIL is like going to the gym because there’s an aerobic component along with flexibility, muscle strengthening and buidling balance. “SAIL clearly helped me strengthen my core muscles because when I went into my annual physical, my doctor said, ‘Wow, you have strong abdominal muscles!’ No one has ever told me that.”

Using what she's learned

Shifting her feet and maintaining balance recently came in handy for Kris when she visited a Minnesota state park. She describes the experience. “I tripped on a root and as I started to fall forward, trying to catch myself, my other foot landed on yet another root which threw me off in a different direction. It happened again on a third root, and then amazingly, my Tai Ji Quan kicked in, and I caught myself. Thanks to my Tai Ji Quan training, I didn’t fall.”

Kris says she will continue taking Tai Ji Quan and SAIL classes. She is grateful to Juniper for the classes themselves and because they are offered via Zoom. “I gave up my gym membership because of COVID and the long drive,” she explains. “It is such a blessing for people like me not to have to get up and get out of the house, yet still get the exercise and the social connection. If my tripping incident had happened a year or two ago, I’m sure I would’ve gone down after the first root and broken something because of my osteoporosis. Juniper classes totally saved me!”

Learn about Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance or Stay Active and Independent for Life.

11 of 21