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Effective Uses of Pilates for Injury Rehabilitation

pilates-pharm-psychWhen I first came to Pilates, I had been sidelined from running by hip and knee pain. I was looking for a workout that would allow me to maintain my fitness level, while not doing further damage to my joints and promoting recovery.

During the first class, I found myself challenged on both the mental and physical levels. I soon became hooked as I started to awaken muscles I had forgotten that I had, while enjoying increased strength and a sense of accomplishment as I began to master the method.

Although Pilates has gained popularity in recent years, it isn’t just for fitness fanatics. Pilates is named for its creator, Joseph Pilates, who developed the exercises in the early 1900s. Pilates focuses on building strength in the core muscles for improved posture, balance, and flexibility.

The principles of core strengthening and balance are also the main factors that make this exercise ideal for injury rehabilitation. Pilates focuses on control of movement, so as to prevent further injury to the body. Pilates is low-impact and does not induce inflammation and overuse syndromes.

Orthopedic doctors and physiotherapists are increasingly using Pilates as an alternative or complement to traditional rehabilitation. Pilates has been proven to be effective at addressing chronic neck and back pain, shoulder impingement/tendonitis, hip bursitis, ankle injuries, total hip/knee replacements, Multiple Sclerosis, sports injuries, and repetitive strain injuries.

Here are some reasons you might want to consider incorporating Pilates into your exercise routine:

Pilates corrects muscular imbalances

Many injuries are caused by muscular imbalances. Daily activities, and our posture as we go about our lives, can lead to an imbalance in muscular strengths, putting excessive pressure on some muscles and not enough on others.

In turn, these muscular imbalances make the body susceptible to strains, tears and sprains. Pilates exercises promote an even musculature throughout the body by strengthening the core.

The core is considered the center of the body and consists of the deep abdominal muscles, along with the muscles closest to the spine. In addition, Pilates may stave off further injuries, by stressing spinal and pelvic alignment, which is essential in promoting proper biomechanics and optimizing body movement.

Pilates is adaptable and holistic

Another benefit is that Pilates can be tailored to a greater degree than conventional forms of physical therapy. Pilates exercises are adapted to the individual, regardless of age or activity level, and range from moderate to intense.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, is often structured around a set of prescribed exercises that may be hard to tolerate, either because they are too advanced for the patient or because the patient is not aware of how to correctly position their body for maximum results.

I can personally attest to this, as I often found myself struggling at the beginning of physical therapy, then going through the motions once the exercises had become familiar.

Similar to yoga, Pilates takes a holistic approach. It recognizes that all muscles and bones of the body are connected and that, for example, leg pain might actually originate in the lower back.

Since Pilates focuses on the entire body, and not just the injured part, it promotes an integrated approach to healing. I began to recognize that there were some less than optimal patterns of movement that I had developed over the years, which likely led to my hip and knee pain in the first place.

After just a few sessions of Pilates, I became more self-aware and in tune with how my body was moving in space. Overtime, my coordination and flexibility improved and my pain lessened, which encouraged me to continue challenging myself through the exercises whether on my own or in classes.

Conventional vs Rehabilitative Pilates

If you have an injury and are considering Pilates, it is important to make sure the instructor has physical therapy training. There is a distinction between teaching Pilates for exercise and using it as a form of therapy.

Most Pilates instructors are not trained or qualified to diagnose injuries or make treatment plans. As with any new exercise program, it is recommended to consult your doctor or physiotherapist before beginning Pilates.

Used appropriately, Pilates can be a great tool to speed injury recovery and balance weak links in the muscular skeletal makeup.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pilates for Beginners: Explore the Core.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/pilates-for-beginners/art-20047673?pg=2

Ogle, Marguerite. “Pilates and Back Pain.” About Health, About.com. 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesforeverybody/a/Back-Pain.htm

“Why Pilates Rehabilitation is Used By Physical Therapists.” Everything About Pilates. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. http://everything-about-pilates.com/rehabilitation

Shanti Nagarkatti, M.B.A. (5 Posts)

Shanti Nagarkatti is a freelance writer, researcher, and literacy educator/mentor based in Chicago. Nagarkatti’s background includes more than six years of marketing and business development experience in the professional engineering services industry. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis; a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee; and has taken continuing education courses in writing at the University of Chicago Graham School. Nagarkatti’s column on natural medicine will appear regularly in PharmPsych.com’s News section.


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