You may think Pilates is a recent fitness craze, but it was actually created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates to improve his fitness and physique. During World War I, he began using his exercise techniques with wounded soldiers as a form of rehabilitation. When Pilates came to America after the war and began working with injured dancers, the Pilates exercises gained popularity.
Patients with an array of neurological and orthopedic issues, including spinal cord injuries, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stroke and balance issues and traumatic brain injury, can benefit from a Pilates-infused rehabilitation program as it reinforces postural alignment, muscle performance and motor control.
Pilates exercises serve to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance muscles around the joints. This involves placing more emphasis on dynamic pelvic and scapular stabilization and developing the spine-supporting trunk muscles of the abdomen, back, and buttocks.
Retraining and exercising our core muscles is widely used in managing every conceivable orthopedic condition, but particularly low back and neck pain.
What the research says:
A 2008 pilot study found that Pilates exercises may be effective and safe for women who are recovering from breast cancer treatments. Study participants noted improvement in shoulder range of motion, pain levels, mood, and upper extremity function. (Keays, Harris, et al. Effects of Pilates exercises on shoulder range of motion, pain, mood, and upper-extremity function in women living with breast cancer: a pilot study. PT Journal. 2008:88(4).)
A 2006 randomized controlled trial (RCT) found that a Pilates-based treatment approach was more successful than usual care in a population with chronic, unresolved LBP. (Rydeard R, Leger A, Smith D. Pilates-based therapeutic exercise: effect on subjects with nonspecific chronic low back pain and functional disability: a randomized controlled trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Jul;36(7):472-84.)
A 2003 study found that Pilates trained subjects could better contract the transversus abdominis muscles and maintain superior lumbopelvic control compared to those who completed regular abdominal curls or no abdominal exercise at all. (Herrington, Davies. The inﬂuence of Pilates training on the ability to contract the transversus abdominis muscle in
asymptomatic individuals. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2003:9.)