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Benefits of Combining Pilates with Physical Therapy

By: Stephanie Ruopp

After an injury or surgery, it’s pretty standard practice to go to physical therapy.

And if you’ve ever had physical therapy, you’ve probably noticed that they recommend laying off your exercise program. They want you to put a halt on your running, spinning or boot camp exercises. And with good reason.

But one of the exercises not on the “prohibited” list is Pilates.

It’s true that Pilates has increased in popularity over the past decade. But so too has the awareness of its rehabilitative effects and the benefits of combining Pilates with physical therapy

The two play off each other quite nicely.

Why Combining Pilates with Physical Therapy Is Effective

While Pilates does a wonderful job of sculpting the body, it was not developed with that in mind. In fact, that’s just a really nice bonus. 

Joseph Pilates actually developed his system of movements (formerly known as Contrology) as a sort of physical therapy. It was based on working the body in proper form and strengthening not just the big muscles, but all the intricate and tiny muscles as well. 

In other words, the original basis of his method was focused on rehabilitating people’s bodies. That was its primary purpose.

So it makes perfect sense that Pilates and physical therapy would work so well in tandem. 

In Pilates, just as in physical therapy, every single aspect can be customized and tailored to a specific person’s needs based on their body and/or injury. In a fully equipped Pilates environment, the apparatus and numerous props are utilized to support, assist, and facilitate movement. 

This allows for the patient to learn or relearn optimal movement in a safe way. It also provides challenging work for training strength, endurance, balance, and function. And these lend themselves well to the physical therapy component of healing.

There are many other reasons physical therapists recommend working in a Pilates regimen to their clients/patients.

How Pilates and Physical Therapy Work Together

Pilates is an effective recovery tool that more physical therapists are utilizing.  Therapists who are able to see Pilates and physical therapy in terms of a healing strategy have found great success. To the point where clients who were told they’d need surgery can now participate in Pilates classes 2-3 times per week with minimal discomfort.

The process starts with incorporating the movement patterns and compensations that are the Pilates practice. 

In the areas where these prove to be ineffectual, or where there is clearly a structural issue, physical therapy is applied. In some cases, the client may have to move completely into physical therapy. But Pilates will provide post-rehab benefits once physical therapy is complete.  

There must be clear dialogue between Pilates instructors and physical therapists in order to work around the needs of each client. 

No physical therapist should have the intention of holding onto a client forever. But Pilates instructors also need to recognize when there is a structural issue that goes beyond their area of expertise. 

That’s why it’s of great benefit to be able to receive this sort of therapy at a facility that offers both. It allows for the professionals to interact. And you’re likely to find that skilled physical therapists in these environments also have solid comprehensive Pilates skills.

The Healing Effects of Pilates

Finding proper alignment through Pilates is done without the effect and pull of gravity. It’s a low-impact activity that takes pressure off of the joints so they remain protected while training the body to move back into optimal alignment. 

But there’s an emotional component as well. 

Injury or surgery can take a toll on one’s mental state and kick on the sympathetic nervous system. This puts one in a constant “fight or flight” mode. It’s exhausting and does nothing toward healing. 

Pilates can help to activate its counterpart – the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system responsible for rest, relaxation, reparation and recovery. It also aids in better sleep and digestion so that the body, as a whole, can heal and grow stronger.

On top of all of this, physical therapy patients with a regular Pilates practice also gain knowledge of what NOT to do.

The Power of Prevention

Many injuries are the result of an imbalance. This can be in the joints, muscles or connective tissues.

The bad news is that you are more than likely dealing with an alignment issue somewhere in your body. In fact, the vast majority of people regularly experience some sort of misalignment in the body. 

But the good news is that a regular Pilates practice can help you get back into proper alignment. And this goes a long way toward helping you prevent injuries in the future.

Having this alignment helps your body to better handle the usual knocks, slips or other general mishaps in life that could lead to serious injury. 

And that means you may end up skipping the physical therapy altogether. 

Is Your Healing Regimen Lacking?

If you’re not making any strides with your current healing regimen, consider the benefits of combining Pilates with physical therapy. 

Our Pilates and physical therapy center is fully equipped to meet all your needs to help facilitate healing. 

So contact us today to see how we can get you on a more effective road to recovery. 

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