Clinical Pilates: from Physio to Fitness

Have you had the experience of successfully finishing a rehabilitation program, only to return to your previous fitness routine and find that you quickly fall into your old pain pattern again? Or maybe you’re having difficulty progressing the exercises prescribed by your physio in a way that feels safe for your body? Often the jump from Physio to fitness is too much, too soon. Sometimes there’s a big gap between your prescribed rehab exercise and your fitness routine or sport. It can be difficult to make the leap. You were likely given some great home exercises by your physiotherapist, but your body may not be able to keep up when you return to the demands of your fitness routine.

The key element that is usually lacking is integrating your rehabilitation gains into functional, whole body movement. To successfully remain injury free you need to train your body to move differently. More specifically you need to train your brain, to tell your body how to move better! This is mind-body movement, or mindful movement. You’ve likely heard this term, but what does it really mean? It begins by understanding that the body and mind are interconnected in everything that we do.

We all have the tendency to go on autopilot, and fall back into our old patterns of movement – which is what originally caused our injury and had us in the physiotherapy clinic in the first place! How can we try to avoid this scenario? The key is to get your brain involved in retraining your movement patterns. Mindful movement. Training from the perspective of teaching the mind to tell the body what to do can finally change those patterns that continue to cause problems. With practice, the changed movement patterns start to become automatic and easily integrated into your exercise program of choice.

Pilates is a form of mind-body exercise that has been given more press in recent years due to its ability to strengthen the core. Joseph Pilates originally developed his method of exercise in the early 20th century which he called “Contrology”*. The goal of the method was to “gain the mastery of your mind over the complete control of your body” (Joseph Pilates). Specifically the method worked at improving muscular control, developing core strength and balance, creating muscular balance throughout the body, and teaching breath awareness. Joseph was way ahead of his time! He developed his method long before core stability training or mindful movement became more mainstream. Now we are able to take his original principles and apply what we know from modern science to his method.

Clinical Pilates is an adaptation of Pilates incorporating both physiotherapy and Pilates techniques. By combining a physiotherapist’s clinical skills to the method, key issues can be identified for each person, and a specific program can be created based on that person’s specific injury or movement dysfunction. When applied in a clinical setting, Pilates leads to improved core stability and muscular balance throughout the body, but even more importantly it can re-train your muscles to fire in the correct pattern. This is called neuromuscular control.

Clinical Pilates can do this for all the muscles that stabilize your joints throughout the body, not just the core. Whether it’s your neck, shoulder, back, pelvis, knee, ankle, or anything in between, if you’ve had an injury chances are there is a muscle dysfunction pattern happening. A movement dysfunction. A physiotherapist trained in this method can assess you from a whole body perspective, and determine what your particular movement dysfunction is. A targeted program to your particular needs will get you moving better, feeling better, and back to your chosen fitness program with ease and improved function.

Part of our job as physiotherapists is to help you cross the gap between rehabilitative treatment and fitness. For this reason some physiotherapists have started to incorporate Clinical Pilates into their practice. It’s a wonderful tool to bridge the gap, and return to your activities with more body awareness, improved alignment, improved dynamic core function, overall body strength and better quality of movement.

Lakeview Physiotherapy and Acupuncture offers one-on-one Clinical Pilates sessions. Consider adding mindful movement to your return to fitness program. Your body will thank you!