Most people, when they first hear "Pilates", think "hardcore" workout and that only "fit people" can do it. Well, that is not true. People of all ages and all abilities can benefit from Pilates. Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed back in the early to mid-1900 by Joseph Pilates. It can be used with or without specialized machines. The objective and benefits are to improve strength, flexibility and joint range of motion and to develop a strong core, as well as to improve posture. In addition, this form of exercise evenly conditions the body, helps reduce injury or promotes recovery from an injury and enhances general body awareness.

The core consists of the abdominals, back, torso, hips and buttocks, and when it comes to Pilates, this is where all exercises begin. Whether focusing on a shoulder issue, low back issue, postural issue, or even a neurological issue, it all begins with the core. To have a strong body is to have a strong core. This is done through a variety of exercises starting with the very basic to the very advanced.

Basic exercises can consist of general "mat exercises" using your body and breathing, with no equipment involved. At the basic level, the person is mostly supine, lying or sitting in a chair. Even a patient that might not be fully ambulatory can participate in these exercises. As the patient advances, a variety of basic equipment can be introduced, such as Pilate’s rings, foam rolls or Swiss balls, to help make the exercises more challenging. The exercises can also progress to different positions, such as standing, side lying, quadruped (on hands and knees) or prone (on your stomach). This is quite similar to traditional physical therapy exercises, as form, technique and breathing play a significant part in Pilates exercises. When advancing further to using "Pilates-specific" machines, specific instruction is needed by the therapist, as well as the patient. So, please do not attempt any of these exercises without proper instruction by a proper therapist or instructor.

When can Pilates be used? This may be a commonly asked question from a patient. It can be utilized at virtually any stage of the rehabilitation process. In the acute phase, the exercises are used to target pain control, reducing the acute signs of injury. In the recovery phase, this is when strength, flexibility and proprioception are promoted. This is the longest phase, when the exercises are advanced as per the patient’s ability and enables them to return to their previous level of function before injury. The final phase is the reconditioning or maintenance phase. This is when the patient must maintain all they have developed. If you do not maintain all you have gained, the body will deteriorate and become weak once again, risking re-injury.

In conclusion, Pilates can be used in all stages of the rehabilitation process for nearly every level of ability with all patients. Even though you may not be a high-level athlete, the truth is, every person can benefit from Pilates exercises. From injury rehabilitation to general strengthening, this is a wonderful form of exercise. Chances are, if you join us here at OSA for physical therapy, sure enough, some of your exercises will incorporate one form of Pilates or another!!

By Dana Winess, PTA

Reference: From a seminar I attended in March 2010; "Utilizing Pilates Principles to Enhance Rehabilitation Outcomes" by North American Seminars.


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