Pilates For Rehabilitation…

Pilates For Rehabilitation

I first became interested in Pilates when I saw the benefits of whole-body strengthening with such a strong emphasis on posture and the core. Most people think of it as a form of exercise, but I see it as so much more. For me, it doubles as a great holistic rehabilitation tool.

Originally titled, ‘Contrology’, Pilates was developed based on the concept of integration and comprehensive physical exercise. It was originally used by dancers but has since expanded to the entire population for both training and rehabilitation.

I recently talked about this in our video series. Take a look here. 

The benefit of this type of exercise is that it is low load and holistic in its approach. There are multiple components of the kinetic chain that need to be addressed to exercise the body to its fullest potential. Pilates embraces and emphasizes each component.

In rehabilitation, often times individual muscles moving in single planes are having a difficult time. Rehab professionals train those individual muscles and then combine them with other planes of movement/muscles in order to function better. Everything in rehabilitation is neuromuscular in nature, meaning you are retraining the neural pathways that direct the muscle activation. Pilates increases body awareness in space, or the movements (and positions) a body is capable of. At its core, it emphasizes HOW THE BODY COMMUNICATES FROM WITHIN as the individual has to attend to all of the components of their own body.

Many of the Pilates exercises used in rehabilitation are simple. ‘Normal’ and/or uninjured persons are unable to perform more advanced Pilates exercises with the correct form. Many Doctors see patients who state that they do Pilates, yet they complain of back pain or other injuries. That is why we emphasize the simple, straightforward exercises with our rehabilitation clients. It is important to retrain the individual to correct their form and utilize the whole body correctly when doing this or any other exercise hence the emphasis on more straight planar exercises. If they can master this, then we will progress them to more advanced exercises. To disregard the importance of this is not ethical for the safety of your client or their ability to return to their activities without re-injury.

Pilates has helped clients with hip and knee pathologies like meniscal tears, ACL tears or labrum tears. Even the older population benefits as my 65-year-old patient who works as a street photographer have noticed a significant difference in his knee pain after performing Pilates exercises to strengthen his hips and knees.

Mat Pilates is the hardest form of Pilates. Machine-based Pilates will give you resistance but offer assistance during a movement. Mat Pilates does not let you cheat as it is just you, your body weight and gravity. It is also one of the best forms of exercise that can travel with you as you need nothing other than a mat and some space.

I always highly recommend the use of an individual lesson in the beginning so that all aspects of activation are covered before performing more complex Pilates exercises. Group classes are good from a financial perspective but means you should really know what you are doing and how well you are doing it so as not to get injured. Typically, a combination of group and individualized training sessions yields the best benefit for the buck.


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Karena Wu

Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy® with clinics in New York City and Mumbai,…

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