Pilates – An Effective Rehab Tool in Physical Therapy

Pilates – An Effective Rehab Tool in Physical Therapy

Pilates-integrated Physical Therapy is an excellent choice to prepare yourself for surgery as well as help you recover after  surgery.  The stronger you are going into surgery, the easier you will find your post surgical Physical Therapy.  Pilates is used not only as a rehab tool but also to open the door to the world of wellness for patients.


Pilates is a whole body workout.  It focuses on postural alignment and core activation to support all other aspects of movement.  Your core includes the following:

  1. Transverse Abdominals – when contracted, this abdominal muscle serves as a corset-type reinforcement to support and protect your back
  2. Multifidus – deep spinal musculature connecting to each vertebrae of your spine
  3. Pelvic Floor musculature – includes that hold the pelvis together and connect the pelvis to the femur as well as muscles that control the flow of urine
  4. Diaphragm – the primary muscle of breathing; breathing techniques are used in Pilates to decrease stress, lower blood pressure, improve aerobic capacity and calm the mind and spirit

When your skeletal and musculature systems are aligned, it results in optimal contraction of your core.  Pilates improves your skeletal alignment and increases the strength of your postural musculature. It protects your back, hips and knees and it corrects rounded upper backs and hollow chests often seen in the aging population. When your able to utilize your core to it‘s maximum potential because your posture is aligned, you will experience improved mobility, coordination and balance.

Pilates was actually developed over a century ago by German-born Joseph Hubertus Pilates.  He was a sickly child and young adult and sought to overcome his physical limitations through his self-created exercise regimen. He later furthered his development of Pilates as he rehabbed detainees in the hospital during WWI, while working as an orderly.  He used mattress boxes and springs to provide assistance and resistance to improve their physical condition.

The classic Pilates reformer, a bed-like moving carriage, with springs attaching the carriage to one end of the frame, provides assistance or resistance, depending on the direction of the movement.  Repetition of Pilates exercises on the reformer teaches specific movement patterns and produces desired outcomes. These movement patterns transfer over into activities of life, such as stair climbing, unloading groceries, lawn mowing, golfing, etc.

Physical Therapists specialize in assessing movement patterns of patients and identifying where there are imbalances to address. Addressing such imbalances through a combination of Physical Therapy and Pilates is ideal. The nature of Pilates-integrated Physical Therapy is to move the patient into dynamic functional positions requiring multi-directional loads to assist patients in meeting the demands of activities of life previously listed.

Pilates can be used by Physical Therapists for rehab and thereafter, addressing body and mind, creating pathways to a healthy lifestyle and living well.  Choosing an effective, certified Pilates instructor in the “thereafter” is crucial. Speak to your surgeon regarding recommendations to Physical therapists who are also certified Pilates instructors.

By Jennifer Klein, Physical Therapist

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