3 Reasons Why Physiotherapists use Clinical Pilates Exercises to Treat Muscle and Joint Pain
Before we get into our top three reasons why physiotherapists in Singapore employ clinical pilates for rehabilitation, injury prevention and improving your muscle and joint woes, let’s first give a little background to help distinguish between Pilates and Clinical Pilates in Singapore.
So…Pilates! What is Pilates? You may have heard of it being mentioned in the same breath as another popular exercise form, Yoga. Pilates is in fact, a physical fitness system that was created in the early 20th century by a dancer Joseph Pilates. Originally named Contrology, it was created with the intention of helping soldiers and dancers regain their health. By targeting deep postural muscles with precise movements in line with the Pilates principles: correct alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flow, it helps to add strength, flexibility, and lean muscle tone with an emphasis on re-balancing our body and bringing our body into correct neutral alignment.
Now, what about Clinical Pilates? An overview of it would be that it is a modified form of Pilates combining the fundamentals of Pilates with physiotherapy research/treatments that was inspired by strong evidence in the literature supporting the use of therapeutic exercises, including Pilates for many different conditions, particularly in low back pain. Under the supervision of a suitably trained physiotherapist, it focuses on the aforementioned Pilates principles to activate and improve the flexibility of our core muscles with the goal of aiding sprain and strain recovery, muscular and joint injuries and post surgery rehabilitation.
With all that context in mind, let’s move on to what we’d argue to be the top three benefits of clinical Pilates!
1. Specificity and Tailoring
Although Pilates and Clinical Pilates sound pretty similar at first glance, and both work on muscle control rather than strength, with the exercises working muscle groups in patterns that are functional, there are also significant differences.
General/non-clinical Pilates can be fantastic at aligning and strengthening, but the key word here is ‘general’. Pilates is conducted by instructors who, experienced and awesome as they may be, are just not trained specifically in a way to facilitate injury management, rehabilitation and recovery.
What sets Clinical Pilates apart is how the physiotherapist can tailor it with precision to target an individual’s orthopedic, musculoskeletal and sports injuries. To elaborate upon this, physiotherapists have been trained to assess your posture, injury history and causes, conduct clinical and movement tests and understand your motivations and goals (e.g. returning to a lifestyle that incorporates specific vigorous activities). They then can prescribe exercises within your range of motion and abilities to benefit your lifestyle goals and even adjust these on the fly based on your condition and progress.
Besides the point of precise prescription of exercises, let’s delve into a couple other key reasons why physiotherapists in Singapore may choose to employ clinical Pilates in their treatment of muscle and joint pain in patients.
2. Retraining Movement Patterns
When injuries unfortunately occur, there will often be biomechanical imbalances caused and inefficient functional movements after. Perhaps one way to think about it would be in terms of hidden compensatory movement patterns. These movements are used habitually to achieve functional motor skills when a normal pattern is unavailable i.e. the body compensates for weakness or inability of a muscle to perform its role in movement in a way that creates even more stress in new areas.
A prime example of this would be unconsciously exerting more force with one leg whilst walking after the other side has recently had a broken ankle. If prolonged, these compensatory movement patterns can complicate your recovery and make you more prone to reinjury, so clinical pilates exercises deployed as part of a whole physiotherapy programme can actually help to break these hidden patterns or stop them from becoming too ingrained, restoring your body back to more normal movement patterns through functional training.
3. Activating Specific Muscles (especially your core!)
Part of the inspiration behind our name (Core Fitness) is because developing the core muscles is essentially, well, the core behind what we do. Our primary goal is enabling better quality of movement in order to achieve long term recovery and we accomplish that by treating the cause of injury whilst also strengthening the specific structures to prevent reinjury. This sometimes includes stabilizing structures for specific joints but more often than not, we tend to work on the core, especially for back issues.
To get into more details – weak and unstable core muscles can cause back pain by encouraging a forward-leaning posture and less stability when working in tandem with one’s back muscles for any sort of bending, straightening or lifting movements. In comes the Pilates exercises, which, when performed correctly, strengthen the aforementioned deep postural muscles which work together to align, stabilise and protect the spine. This strength, in turn, improves your posture and body/joint awareness, helping you to maintain your balance and prevent unwanted strains or sprains. It also enables your body to conduct force and stress through the appropriate muscles rather than the spine, which reduces the risk for back pain greatly.
If you’ve made it this far, yay! Hopefully, this little writeup has given you a greater sense of how and why we choose our treatment methods here at Core Fitness and specifically how Clinical Pilates, as a potent tailored combination of Pilates fundamentals and physiotherapy research, can serve as a particularly effective yet safe tool in our physiotherapist’s arsenal throughout the journey towards a better quality of movement facilitating a better quality of life!