As a Pilates instructor, I have always favored a more clinical approach to the Pilates method, which is why I enjoyed doing much of my training with the APPI Health Group (Australian Institute of Physiotherapy and Pilates). This approach to teaching Pilates has evolved to complement physical therapy which aids in patient recovery and rehabilitation.
In 2011, I trained as an Advanced Level 4 Pilates Instructor specializing in working with clients with low back pain. This has allowed me to receive referrals from medical professionals including physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and local GPs, and this is something that I appreciate and appreciate very much.
I would like to give Sarah Connors a special mention for her contribution to the blog. She is the most wonderful physiotherapist with 30 years of experience and worked for years alongside British Athletics (read more about Sarah here).
Hope you enjoy reading…
Both physiotherapy and Pilates have one primary goal in mind which is to work together to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury by strengthening weak muscles and improving mobility where it is needed in the body.
Physiotherapy is about prevention as well as reducing the risk of injury in the future. It works to restore movement and function and will identify tension that results from intensive training. He has a holistic approach and enjoys involving the patient in their own care and recovery. She tends to treat the body as a whole and not always the source of the pain and is keen on prevention.
A physical therapist will assess individuals and examine their joint mobility, function and strength. It uses mobilization and manipulation to restore optimal joint mobility with additional soft tissue work to release tight muscles.
If you exercise a lot and have suffered injuries, joint pain and discomfort, chances are you have seen a physical therapist for treatment. This is because it is known to be a fantastic way to regain and maintain your physical health.
Your physiotherapist will assess, diagnose and suggest a treatment plan. Pilates instructors are not trained to do this part, so it is essential that you always have an injury examined by a physiotherapist, GP or other medical professional. They have the tools and training to determine the cause of the problem and refer you to other specialists. You may find that they recommend Pilates as a good exercise method to help you recover.
Sarah suggests that there are 3 things you need to come out of a physio session with:
- What is the cause of the problem.
- What is tight and how can I help loosen it.
- How can I strengthen and charge the area.
Physiotherapy has evolved and not only uses physical manipulation, but also understands the importance of movement in recovery and will prescribe exercises to help. These exercises are often mat-based and require a degree of strength and control. However, this does mean that it is easy to perform them incorrectly and therefore sometimes may not be as beneficial as they should be, which is why a referral to a Pilates instructor is a great idea. !
Prescribed rehabilitation exercises often incorporate components of Pilates movements…they might just have been given different names! Exercises such as the footprint, pelvic curls and shoulder bridges as well as various Pilates stretching movements such as the Cat Stretch are often used. Indeed, both methods focus on muscle balance, mobility, and the recovery of full body strength while improving alignment, function, and body awareness.
You will normally start these exercises at a very low level with your physiotherapist who will most often recommend a 1:1 session with a Pilates teacher beforehand.
Something that physiotherapy can offer that Pilates cannot… are manual joint mobilizations and soft tissue release, but combining this with prescribed exercises to do at home makes change possible. Manual therapy is vital for recovery and change. By removing the physical restrictions better movement can be made possible, this helps the Pilates instructor to work on strengthening weaker muscles without the restrictions and to start working on mobilizing and stretching tense areas of the body, which gives better results.
How Pilates Complements Physiotherapy
You may not know how effective Pilates can be for pre-rehab, rehabilitation, after injury or surgery when taught by a specialist Pilates instructor and why the combination of the two works so well together. It’s also why more and more physical therapists are referring their patients to Pilates and why many are training themselves in Pilates, both mat work and Pilates with equipment. The two often work side by side to ensure fruitful results for their clients.
The origins of Pilates are rooted in rehabilitation. Joseph Pilates, the founder, invented the Pilates Reformer to help injured and ill people and worked with dancers in their rehabilitation from injury.
As mentioned above, programs prescribed by physical therapists often use Pilates exercises to help recover as quickly as possible. It’s so important to keep moving during injury recovery and so Pilates is a great addition and partnership as it’s gentle on the joints, takes into account injured areas and works to balance the body and strengthen and mobilize where needed. .
There has also been an increased awareness in recent years of the importance of core strength and stability in preventing injury, aiding performance and reducing pain. Pain in the body will shut down the core muscles, which means they will lose muscle tone and strength very quickly… not great when it’s when you need it most! Injuries are often caused by muscle imbalances and poor posture that Pilates is always keen to address, and this is especially true for people with back pain.
A physiotherapist, GP or other healthcare professional may recommend Pilates, which can be done 1 on 1, in a small Pilates class or while exercising on Pilates equipment. It’s a good idea to follow your physical therapist’s advice on what would be most beneficial.
Pilates equipment is an excellent rehabilitation tool because the difficulty of the exercises can be easily adapted to the client and because it is so important to move without pain and that the exercises are part of a positive experience.
The equipment highlights poor movement patterns and muscle imbalances that are often the cause of injury. If we can all get our clients to improve their body awareness and posture and improve the way they move, it will prevent further injury and promote faster recovery.
Pilates is a great addition to an existing rehabilitation program and diagnosis, but it’s still very important that your injury is examined and diagnosed first. Pilates should not replace the advice and recommendations of your GP, physiotherapist or other healthcare professional, but it can be a great addition and impact your recovery.
Specialized Pilates instructors and physical therapists can work together to achieve great results for their clients. Together they can both educate and empower them to be part of their own recovery.
Both methods are a fantastic means of rehabilitation, but together they can be even better – which makes them such a great team!