Most people are now familiar with Pilates as the market has matured..though it is still is one of the fastest growing exercises.
Many have experienced the physical fitness benefits of Pilates – added strength, length, and agility that it provides. But few know that Pilates is rapidly rising in another area – rehabilitation from injury.
The Culprit: Muscle Imbalances
Some of my clients have experienced injuries this Fall not due to muscular imbalances (though we all have some imbalances…) but rather due to things out of their control ..aka car accident and or swing accident (yes! swings can be dangerous whilst holding your small daughter on your lap with your feet crossed)!
Though for the purposes of this article…. many injuries are caused by muscular imbalances within our bodies. And many things cause these imbalances – our posture, the way we walk, bend over, sit, lie down, or work out – basically the way we move or hold ourselves….also known as habitual lifestyle…which can also be sitting at a desk all day (..in flexion of the spine…NOT GREAT)….the other is your genetics (but that’s another whole spinal “thing”that is out of your control).
What is in our control…is that we often move incorrectly in some way or another, which puts too much pressure on some muscles and weakens others, causing an imbalance.
Take the back, for example: the way we move may put too much pressure on the spine, while weakening the pelvic muscles in the front of the body or vice-versa. (e.g picking up heavy groceries, or pulling a toddler from a car seat in an awkwardly rotated unsupported spine…) These scenarios can create an imbalance, which means the body is much more perceptible to serious strains, pulls, tears or worse.
Pilates exercises promote an even musculature throughout the body by strengthening the core and creating lengthen in the spine. The core is considered the “center” of the body and consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine both front and back body. Pilates also stresses spinal and pelvic alignment, which is critical in getting us to move the way we’re supposed with support in movement to avoid injury. The lengthening of the spine creates space and “juices” up the synovial fluid in between the discs of the vertebrae (or bones of the spine) whilst moving through flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion of the spine. …all good stuff for your spine!
A Flexible Form of Rehab
These are reasons why physical therapists are now using Pilates as a form of rehabilitation.
Part of its success is indeed based on the approach to the principles of Pilates – core strength, an even musculature, etc. But another reason is that the machine-based pilates work (apparatus-based work) on the reformer, chair, and cadillac, offers both challenge when you are not injured and support when you are in a rehabilitative-state.
You can go from basic movements to very advanced, depending on how you need to progress or how badly you are injured.
Positive Movement Experiences
In addition, with Pilates, clients become responsible for their own rehabilitation. It is not just coming to a physio lying down and having them do all the work. With Pilates clients learns where their body is in space, also known as proprioception (which I referred to in last month’s newsletter) and to identify the best way to support themselves and or a specific movement sequence. All these factors contribute to a positive movement experience, which can greatly facilitate a faster recovery.
When you create a positive movement experience, you are able to take a step forward without pain. The more you move without pain, the more confidence you gain. And the more confidence you gain, the more likely you are to try another movement or exercise. That’s a very healthy rehabilitative cycle.
The machine-based work adds the support to your body when in a rehabilitative-mode. It gets one out of incorrect movement patterns which may have led to the injury in the first place.