Joseph Pilates, a German-American trainer, created the physical fitness system. He developed the exercises to strengthen the human body and mind. The classic regimen has increased popularity in modern times. In 2017, 9.5 million people participated in Pilates training.

Pilates is an excellent way to improve someone’s stamina, mobility, and health. Today, scientific studies show that Pilates has exceptional promise for physical therapy patients. In today’s guide, you’ll learn about how physical therapists have used Pilates to help patients.

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy (PT) is a healthcare field that treats pain and mobility-related issues. These practitioners use exercises and other therapies to help patients to move and function better. Physical therapists use assessments to create personalized plans that treat patients’ functional conditions.

This therapy can improve the following issues:

  • Relieves pain
  • Improves ability and movement
  • Prevents or promote recovery from sports injuries
  • Prevents disability or surgery
  • Rehabilitation after an accident injury, stroke, or surgery
  • Manage chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease
  • Recovery after birth
  • Control the bowels and bladder
  • Adjust to an artificial limb
  • Learn to use assistive devices like canes or walkers

Physical therapists must earn professional licenses from their state, most earning advanced degrees in physical therapy. Additionally, they should pass a national exam.

While the Pilates instructors at Sheppard Method Pilates are not accredited physical therapists, we all take a physical therapy approach to our practice and instruction. Many of us came to practice pilates because of a physical injury we were trying to recover from. We believe that everything is intertwined:  practicing pilates will help to teach you how to use your body properly, which will help relieve pain and rehabilitate from previous injuries and ailments. Our instructors will always adjust their instruction to accommodate for physical therapy needs Рplease let us know what you are dealing with. This is one of the many reasons we start every new student with a personal evaluation of their fitness and goals.

Why More Physical Therapists Are Using Pilates

Pilates is an exercise routine that naturally fits well with rehabilitation and physical therapy techniques. Many therapists have seen success using the program. The program strengthens the intricate, smaller muscles and the larger ones, too.

Pilates and physical therapy are not interchangeable. The exercises, however, provide benefits to patients, physical therapists, and instructors. Unless they are licensed professionals, Pilates instructors cannot rehabilitate or prescribe treatments for injuries or diseases. These instructors can provide a post-rehabilitation or wellness education for patients. And many studies show the exercises help patient’s rehabilitation efforts.

Pilates has its basis in rehabilitation. Joseph Pilates developed the core exercises as a World War I prisoner on the Isle of Man. His routines helped rehabilitate injured and sick people. In his New York City studio, Pilates and his wife helped dancers recover from their injuries. These performers included Carola Trier, Ron Fletcher, and Eve Gentry.

Many physical therapists use Pilates because it provides patients with the following benefits.

  • The exercises provide an increased degree of flexibility than most conventional forms of physical therapy.
  • Physical therapists can modify the exercises, and they will still be effective. These movements are better than conventional therapy. Traditional treatments use exercises that may be too difficult or painful for patients to tolerate.
  • Professionals can prescribe beginning to advanced movements. It depends on the severity of the patient’s injuries, and how much the person needs to progress.
  • Some professionals use the entire philosophy of Pilates in their PT practice. Others only use a limited amount of Pilates along with a traditional approach to physical therapy. The founder designed Pilates equipment to increase a person’s range of motion they couldn’t do against gravity.

A comprehensive Pilates class will improve a person’s quality of life.

Benefits of Pilates-Based Physical Therapy

Exercise helps regular cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor training to maintaining health and fitness and health.

The American College of Sports Medicine’s 2011 Position Stand on exercise cited a variety of health and mental benefits from Pilates. The organization found that it improves flexibility and balance in adults. These exercises also enhance patients’ muscular endurance.

The study used a systematic literature review according to PRISMA guidelines. They searched electronic databases for randomized control trials (RTC). They reviewed 23 studies published between 2005 and 2016 that met the criteria that assessed the efficacy of Pilates in the rehabilitation of disorders such as:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • Chronic neck pain,
  • Low back pain,
  • Post-menopausal osteoporosis
  • Hypertension, and
  • Nonstructural scoliosis.

Nineteen peer-reviewed studies showed Pilates was more effective than the research control. The exercises reduced pain, rehabilitated injuries, and managed disability-related conditions. Pilates-Based Physical Therapy can also treat other conditions such as overuse injuries, tendonitis, headaches, repetitive stress disorders, postural issues, and scoliosis.

There is a difference between using Pilates for exercise versus physical therapy purposes. Injured patients should only hire instructors who are qualified therapists. Ask instructors about their certifications before starting any Pilates regimen for physical therapy.

Pilates-Based Physical Therapy for Seven Health Conditions

Peer-reviewed scientific studies indicate that Pilates-Based Physical Therapy helps improve patients’ health. They include the following diseases.

1. Pilates and Ankylosing Spondylitis

This arthritic condition primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved. The Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) recommends regular exercise and good posture to manage Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).

  • Pilates is a low-impact exercise that improves spinal articulation, strength, and flexibility in AS patients.
  • In March 2014, a Rheumatology International study discovered that three 50-minute weekly sessions of Pilates reduced pain and improved spinal flexibility.
  • These exercises enable them to control the physical core of their body’s musculature.

2. Pilates and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease of the central nervous system. This condition causes the body’s immune system to destroy the protective covering of nerves. This condition disrupts the brain’s information flow between cells, neurons, organs, and the body.

Strengthening exercises build core muscles. They improve issues associated with neurological disorders like weaknesses and balance issues. Pilates is unique. It doesn’t have the same core workouts you see as other exercise regimens. Instead, it works deep core muscles. Pilates also realigns the spine’s placement.

Researchers at Izmir University in Turkey conducted a Pilates-Based Physical Therapy study using 20 Multiple Sclerosis patients. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science published the research.

  • Sixty-five percent of the patients were women in their late 40s. Most had disability scores of 3.0 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). This rating means the women were mobile and had no walking-related impairments. Each one had MS for 15 years or more.
  • The researchers prescribed 45 – 60 minutes exercise sessions for patients in two times each week. Some women used Pilates; others used basic exercise routines.
  • All patients improved on their physical performance tests. Patients using Pilates, however, experienced additional benefits. They saw improvements in their balance issues. The woman also had less fatigue.
  • Pilates participants scored better on cognitive tests compared to those who did traditional exercises.

3. Pilates Alleviates Chronic Neck Pain

A 2018 National Institutes of Health study found that Pilates is effective in treating chronic neck pain. Researchers placed 56 patients with neck issues into three random groups. The scientists studied neck muscles using ultrasound imaging. They evaluated each patient’s pain severity on the McGill Pain Scale, disability with the Neck Disability Index. They also gauged the person’s quality of life using the Nottingham Health Profile.

  • They placed patients in conventional physiotherapy programs. Each person received 15 sessions of physical therapy including hot packs, ultrasound, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). All groups performed exercises for six weeks before and after the treatments.
  • Pain, disability, and life quality improved within all groups. Pilates users were the only group that increases their muscle thickness values in the semispinalis capitis region (in the neck).

4. Low Back Pain and Pilates

Therapeutic exercise is beneficial for the management of chronic low back pain. Pilates stabilizes the core musculature, decreases pain, and increases function through a controlled plane of motion. Many of the exercises are non-weight-bearing and provide for a strong flexion bias.

A National Institutes of Health study examined the effectiveness of Pilates on low back pain. Researchers used seven subjects that performed ten consecutive days of the Pilates CovaTech method. They assessed their pain using the Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire (OLBPDQ) and the VAS. The mean baseline demographic age was 50 years old. The scientists obtained baseline values at the final six-month visit.

The study, called “Yoga and Pilates in the Management of Low Back Pain,” showed that Pilates was effective in managing lower back pain.

  • Researchers discovered all patients using exercise experienced improvements. However, participants using Pilates reported better subjective responses compared to individuals using the Back School Method.
  • Sixty-two percent of Pilates Method participants said they were satisfied with the treatment. Only 4.5 percent of people using the Back School Method expressed satisfaction.
  • Scholars believe Pilates intervention had better long-term compliance because of subjective reasons such as symptom improvement and treatment satisfaction.

5. Pilates Effectiveness in Osteoporosis Conditions

This bone disease occurs when the body loses too much bone or produces too little bone. As a result, osteoporosis causes a person’s bones to become weak and brittle. They may break from all or minor causes like sneezing or bumps. Osteoporosis means porous bone.

  • Pilates is a great method to strengthen the body. These exercises establish efficient patterns of movement, aligning the joints, and stabilizing the axial skeleton.
  • Pilates can help prevent osteoporosis using a back strengthening program (spinal extension and scapular stability). The program can also strengthen wrists and hips.
  • Osteoporosis patients should use a Pilates routine that includes upper back extensions. These exercises will strengthen the back. Other beneficial Pilates movements are side, front, and back splits on reformers. These weight-bearing exercises improve balance.

6. Pilates and Lowered Blood Pressure

The International Journal of Cardiology published a 2015 study on Pilates. Brazilian researchers studied the effectiveness of “Mat” Pilates. They examined whether Pilates exercises could lower blood pressure and reshape women’s bodies.

The 16-week training followed 44 hypertensive women in their 50 who were taking medicines to lower hypertension. None of the women participated in any structured exercise program.

The researchers separated the women into two groups. One was a control group who maintained normal activities and didn’t exercise. The second group performed one hour of Mat Pilates twice a week.

  • By the end of the study, the Pilates group reduced their systolic blood pressure by 7 points. They decreased their diastolic blood pressure by three points.
  • Women trimmed 1 1/4 inches off their waists and narrowed their hips. Their body mass decreased slightly.
  • Participants’ grew taller by a third of an inch.
  • The women had increased flexibility and hand strength after the program.

7. Nonstructural Scoliosis and Pilates

Nonstructural scoliosis is a temporary change in the spine’s curvature. Underlying conditions cause these defects. They include differences in leg length, muscle spasms, or inflammatory conditions like appendicitis that produce muscle spasms.

Most adults carry poor postural habits throughout their lives due to physical inactivity. Musculoskeletal imbalances can cause postural changes during functional activities related to work, school, or walking. These postural defects can cause imbalances in people.

Brazilian and Uruguayan researchers studied the effectiveness of Pilates methods on non-structural scoliosis. They used the means and standard deviations of the Cobb angle to evaluate the patient’s improvement. They also measured the range of motion of the trunk flexion and pain in the control group.

  • The independent T-test of the Cobb angle (t=-2.317, p= 0.028), the range of motion of trunk flexion (t=3.088, p=0.004) and pain (t=-2.478, p=0.019) showed significant differences between the groups, with the best values in the Pilates group.
  • The study’s main findings discovered that Pilates exercises significantly decrease the degree of scoliosis. Pilates patients had increased flexibility of their posterior muscular chains and reduced spinal pain.
  • Researchers attributed the positive effects to the nature of the movements that obey basic principles emphasize by the method.
  • The improvement occurred because of the effort to stabilize the transverse abdominal muscles, lumbar multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor, including the gluteus maximus muscles.
  • The findings correspond with those of other studies including Gouveia and Gouveia (2008) and Endleman and Critchley (2008).

About Sheppard Method Pilates Studio

Transform your life and physical health with the Sheppard Method Pilates Studio. We understand how critical our thoughts and awareness impact your wellbeing. Our studio provides personal evaluations of your fitness and health goals. You’ll also receive three 55-minute private sessions with an expert instructor and a customized Pilates plan. To schedule an appointment, contact us today.