At the turn of the year most of us will be doing the annual internal ‘pep talk’ gearing ourselves up for fitness resolutions and goals. However these journeys are often much harder than we hope! Injuries can happen whether it is a sprained ankle, pulled muscle or a broken bone this can put a stop to all our hard work. The good news is Pilates can help in returning you back to your normal self and allow you to achieve those much desired goals. The benefit of Pilates is well documented when you are looking to keep fit, healthy, improve, core, posture and strength. There is also valid research about the benefits of Pilates for low back pain, neck pain and posture, but what about using Pilates to help you recover from injury and get to back to where you need to be as soon as possible. Pilates has been used for a number of years by Physiotherapist to rehabilitate clients following injury. Once injured there is a complex progress which the body undertakes to help repair any damage to structures in the body.
There are several structures in the body which can be injured sometimes more than one at the same time. Ligaments, tendons and muscles are among the most common. Post injury body has chemical mediators to help the body repair the damaged structures. These chemicals have a vital job to play in the healing process. Once the healing has taken place movement can be beneficial to help improve blood flow and strengthen repaired structures.Pain systems
As well as damage to structures such as ligaments and tendons when you are injured there can be damage to the nerve system which transmits signals around the body. This system is vital in detecting pain and stimulus from the outside. With an injury these signals can become altered and if over time pain continues these can become over sensitised. Normal gentle movement can help this system return to normal.
Loss of strength/ effect on muscles
Due to pain and damage in the body muscles can be weakened as a result of your injury. This can happen as soon as 24hours after the injury. After adequate healing time, and this will vary for each injury, it is important to return normal strength to your muscles to prevent further injures and weakness.
How can Pilates help?
All of these factors will effect your ability to achieve fitness plans and resolutions. Once your injury has reached the stage where you are able to get back to your Pilates practice (It is always advisable to speak with your instructor as they might want to give you advice or modify some exercises) Pilates can play an important role in your rehabilitation. Rehabilitation means to resort good condition and resort you to your previous level of function and strength. As Pilates principals are based on correct controlled movement it can be beneficial to return to exercise in this way. The majority of exercises use only body weight or light equipment so your recovery can be carefully controlled. The focus of exercise can be directed to wherever you need it the most. Supporting muscle groups can be strengthened and flexibility improved. Movement can assist in improving pain and returning blood flow and normal signalling between nerves. The other added benefit is that Pilates can also be adapted and modified to suit your body at the right stage.
Continuing Pilates after injury will have the added effect of reducing your risk of further injury. Neck, back and shoulder issues are often related to poor posture. Alignment and correction of poor postures is an essential part of Pilates. With correct alignment and muscular balance muscles do not need to strain to control your body. Your head spine, hips and pelvis right down to your feet are positioned to allow muscles to work effectively and efficiently without putting excess strain on one muscle group over another. Muscular imbalances can play a large part in the development of injuries. If taking part in other forms of exercise the same muscle groups can be overworked leading to these muscular imbalances. As Pilates conditions the whole body no muscle group is over trained or ignored leading to an evenly conditioned and balanced body which can help with sport performance and prevention of further injury. Using the principles of Pilates and moving in a more efficient patterns of movement is invaluable for injury recovery, good posture and optimal health. Pilates helps elongate and strengthen muscles, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility (see our blog about stretching) Pilates uses dynamic (moving) forms of stretching which is different from yoga static (non-moving) forms of stretching. Pilates can be more effective for some as the body is warm and allows you to move into the stretch with less pain.
As physiotherapists at Pilates Plus we are able to modify and individualise exercises for your specific injury or training need. Therefore, as your body conditioning improves the intensity and challenge of the exercises can increase right up to a high level. We will also be able to give you advice about specific Pilates moves for specific sports and fitness.
As part of your rehabilitation and strengthen programme why not try….
Maintaining good balance is extremely important for injury prevention. Why not try just starting with a single leg stance? Think about that all important spinal neutral with slight engagement of your core. One you have mastered about a 30 second stance on a single leg why not try making it more difficult by closing your eyes!
Start off with feet in parallel and good spinal posture. Start my lifting your heels off from the ground and slowly lowering. Keep good slow control throughout and when this is easier progress by talking your hands up and over head as you lift your heels.
Post injury your body will benefit from improving pelvis and core stability. A strong foundation allows you to maintain core strength so your body can cope well with load and increasing demands. A shoulder bridge will train stability through the whole centre of the body, try Shoulder Bridge Level 1.
Start in neutral spine. Engage the core gently and glutes to start rolling up off the mat as you exhale. Inhale to hold at the top and then lower down level by level as you exhale.
Working in four point kneeling can be beneficial, the load on spinal structures in lessened and with all fours on the ground your body shape is stable.
Start in four-point kneeling in spinal neutral. Engage your core, as you breathe out send opposite arm and leg away out from the body. Make sure your lower back is flat and stable. Draw the limbs back in before swapping onto the other side.
Every injury is different and it is important you are doing the best for your body so we would recommend speaking with a Physiotherapist or your Pilates instructor before returning to exercising.
All exercises are carried out at your own risk. See your physiotherapist or Pilates instructor if you have any questions.
Wishing you all good luck in achieving your 2017 fitness goals!