Pilates exercise has been introduced to the physical therapy community in recent years to enhance rehabilitation programs by focusing on spinal and core stabilization. This particular method can be incorporated into a patient’s treatment plan to improve strength, range of motion, coordination, balance, muscular symmetry, flexibility, and proprioception. Pilates can either be performed as mat work on the floor or on a spring-resistant apparatus, known as Reformer work. The patient, with the guidance of a physical therapist or certified Pilates Instructor performs efficient functional movement patterns, closed-chain and open-chain patterns, as well as multiple planes and positions provided for varied rehabilitation programming with many different diagnoses. Plyometric, CNS, and cardiovascular work can be incorporated in to any Pilates program and is most often performed on the Reformer.
The best part of Pilates for rehabilitation is that the most important principles of Pilates are consistent with an exercise program that supports back health and functional mobility.
In particular, learning awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment are important skills for the back pain patient.
Patients with pain stemming from excessive movement and degeneration of the intervertebral discs and joints are particularly likely to benefit from a Pilates exercise program. In addition, postural asymmetries can be improved, thus decreasing wear and tear resulting from uneven stresses on the intervertebral joints and discs.
Pilates improves strength, flexibility and suppleness of the muscles of the hip and shoulder girdle. Fluid and supported movement through these joints helps prevent unnecessary torque on the vertebral column.
The Pilates program also teaches awareness of movement habits that may stress the spine, and helps the patient change these habits to those that preserve neutral alignment. Awareness of excessive tension and the use of proper focus helps the patient use the body efficiently.
For most people, back pain is the result of Thoracic Kyphosis, or as I like to call it Quasi Modo syndrome. Most of the Pilates mat exercises strengthen the muscles necessary to properly support the spine and bring an awareness about what proper posture actually is. It’s not enough just to do Pilates mat exercises; if you want to improve your posture and heal your back pain, you must incorporate Pilates into your daily life. You must translate the Neutral Spine, the feeling of length, and the Abdominal Scoop into your desk job. If you can incorporate the deeper Pilates concepts into your daily life, you’ll notice changes immediately — in your back pain, in your posture, and in your sense of well-being.
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