Pilates and Knee Surgery
The Healing Benefits of Pilates Before and After Knee Surg
By: Stephanie Ruopp
For many of us, mobility is something we take for granted… until, of course, it becomes compromised.
If knee pain has slowed you down or made everyday living more challenging, then you know exactly what we mean.
Depending on the reason for the pain, you may have already consulted with an orthopedic surgeon who has recommended knee surgery to increase mobility.
But did you know that engaging in Pilates before and after knee surgery can help aid in quicker and more effective recovery?
Causes of Knee Pain
For some, knee pain is mild, yet becomes a chronic hindrance to daily living. For others, the pain can severe enough to limit or even rule out any sort of active lifestyle.
While there are many reasons for knee pain, we’ll take a look at three of the most common.
Knee cartilage includes two menisci on either side of the joint – the medial meniscus on the inside of the knee, and the lateral meniscus on the outside of the knee. A tear to either of these usually requires surgery.
A meniscus tear is a common injury, and typically occurs as a result of one single movement. It could be something as simple as a sudden twist or turn that causes this knee cartilage to tear. And it’s more common in older adults.
Injury to the Ligaments
The ligaments in your knee connect your thigh bone to your lower leg bones. The four major ligaments are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These ligaments hold the bones together and keep the knee stable.
Torn ligaments are more present in athletes or people who are very active – with torn ACLs being the most common.
Ah yes, the A-word.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is the progressive wearing of the cartilage in the knee joint. It occurs more frequently in people over the age of 50 due to accumulated use and wearing down of the cartilage. But it can also be caused by age, weight, genetics, previous injuries, infections, and illness.
Rheumatoid arthritis takes it up a notch by causing the tissue around the joint to become thick and inflamed. Chronic inflammation can lead to damage and loss of cartilage.
Finally, there’s post-traumatic arthritis which can result after a serious knee injury such as a bone fracture or ligament tear. A broken bone can also wear down the joint surface and cause arthritis over time.
In cases of advanced arthritis, the solution is often knee replacement surgery.
So Why Do Pilates Before and After Surgery?
Whatever the reason for your knee surgery, it may seem odd to suggest a form of exercise before the procedure. Shouldn’t it be saved for after? Actually, practicing Pilates with a certified instructor both before AND after your knee surgery will make a big difference in your recovery.
Pilates Before Your Knee Surgery
At least three months before your procedure, you’ll want to begin a Pilates regimen.
With Pilates exercises, you’ll do more than strengthen your leg muscles. Each exercise will have you engaged, connected, and working your whole body – not just the areas around your knee. Also, Pilates teaches you to initiate movement from your center and build core strength. And since the objective is to create balance in the body by engaging in movement and strengthening while in proper alignment, it is considered a corrective exercise.
Learning all of these skills pre-surgery will help you to more safely and effectively move your body post-surgery.
Engaging the core and building strength in the upper body will enable you to better support your body right after your surgery – whether you’re using a walker or crutches. This will, in turn, enable you to take some of the strain off the rest of the body.
And creating balance in your body is especially crucial if you are recovering from an injury or ailment that causes you to compensate in the rest of your body. Striking that balance could save you from chronic pain, tightness, and even injuries in the rest of your body even after your knee has healed.
Pilates After Knee Surgery
Research shows that using Pilates as a rehabilitative exercise post knee surgery is highly effective.
In one study, orthopedic surgeons worked alongside a trained Pilates instructor to create a specific protocol for 38 patients to perform post knee surgery. The patients performed a series of Pilates exercises for at least one hour, three to four times per week.
After one year, all 38 of the patients reported they were satisfied – with 25 of the them adding they were extremely satisfied – with the exercise protocol. Not a single patient reported dissatisfaction. And 73% of them went on to practice Pilates on a regular basis.
So once your doctor gives you the go-ahead to partake in movement and exercise, work with a skilled Pilates instructor who can assess surgery outcomes and develop a suitable rehabilitation program for you.
You can expect that the focus will initially be on working from the core with slow and controlled movements that incorporate proper breathing. As you continue to heal, your instructor will add exercises that target range of motion in the knees, as well as strength and muscle memory development, and improvement of knee flexors and extensors.
Eventually you will progress to more challenging yet safe and mindful exercises that will continue to increase the flexibility, strength, and stamina of the knee. At this point, you’ll likely begin to recognize improvements in balance and gait.
And finally, you’ll work with your instructor to develop and establish a long-term regime to continue your rehabilitation while fostering optimal health and fitness.
Is Knee Surgery in Your Future?
Now that you know the benefit of doing Pilates before and after knee surgery, it’s time to start working with a qualified instructor.
Contact us today to consult with one of our highly skilled instructors so you can get started with your pre-surgical exercises.
And if you’re currently recovering from knee surgery and would like to explore Pilates for rehabilitation, that’s fine too.
It’s never too late to begin.