This page is created for those clients of mine, their doctors and therapists who may be interested in learning more about arthritis relief with Pilates.
In a nutshell:
Pilates is an isometric and isotonic form of exercise designed to strengthen the structural muscles surrounding and supporting the organs, the ribcage, pelvis and the spine. The theory behind the exercises is that strong fully functional structural stabilizing muscles (core muscles) allow the mobilizing muscles to function more efficiently. Initial focus is on breathing and the muscles that support the pelvis and spine. For greatest success Pilates Equipment Training is what one should do.
When the deep abdominal and back muscles support the body’s trunk pressure is relieved and balanced throughout the body. Often joint pain occurs because support and alignment of the spine and pelvis is weak and imbalanced. This causes problems all the way out the extremities. (A shoulder can be impinged because of a rotation at the rib cage, the resultant force vectors may reduce fluid exchange in the elbow or hands; foot, ankle and knee joint pain can result from misaligned pelvis)
Not to be underestimated, breathing deeply and efficiently improves the function of core muscles and reduces tension which can also bring relief. How many breaths per minute do you take? How much of your diaphragm is involved? Can you feel the air deep in your lungs, helping to move blood and clean lymph? Joint inflammation needs to be removed from the body… How do you think that would happen?
This exercise protocol focuses on giving as much room to each joint as possible, allowing for greater range of motion and efficiency. The exercises also focus on stabilizing all the major joints in the body, strengthening the muscles that surround and support them. For many people movement of a joint when unloaded (relieved of the body’s weight) can bring arthritis relief.
Pilates equipment allows mobilization of a joint by removing gravity from an exercise. A well thought out exercise plan on the pilates equipment can strengthen and stabilize the joints. This allows for ease of movement and increases the potential for joint lubrication rather than strain and grinding in the joint capsule.
The equipment temporarily takes weight and pressure off of a joint area and allows one to isolate the muscles that move those joints which otherwise may not be strong enough to function. As one is focusing on stabilizing those core muscles the joints of the hands, ankle, feet, and shoulders are learning to move more freely. Core muscles and breath are better engaged which increases blood flow around the organs and spinal fluid movement is increased, this gives the body an opportunity to cleanse and reduce inflammation. Additionally, since pain often makes it difficult for a person to attempt fitness, the ability to strengthen from the center out , release endorphins and give relief to distal joints has a positive effect in pain relief and self help/confidence.
The spine is better supported so that joint compression caused by gravity is counteracted. This allow the hips and knees to move more freely, bringing relief. When the muscles surrounding the wrist, shoulder, hips knee or even ankle joints are strengthened and stabilized these joints also get more functional space.
Following are links to articles, one from the Physical Medicine Journal the other an informational article for the general public.
Neil A. Segal, MD, Jane Hein, PT, Jeffrey R. Basford, MD, PhD Archive, Physical Medicine Rehabilitation Vol 85, Dec 2004
This article, written for medical professionals concluded that Pilates is helpful in increasing flexibility. Study conclusion notes that increased flexibility is beneficial to arthritis suffers based on a 1996 Surgeon General’s report. This report citation and detailed reading of the article can be found by clicking on the title above.
This article, written for the general public discusses how Pilates can provide for relief for those with arthritis.