Let's Get Physio
Physiotherapy and Pilates Find Common Ground
In this blog I would like to talk about the ideal fusion of physiotherapy, rehabilitation and Pilates, using the classic equipment.
Pilates was originally developed by Joseph Pilates while he was working with injured World War II soldiers in Germany. Joseph determined that attaching springs on the end of the bed helped soldiers to move their injured limbs to gain strength and range of motion. After he moved to New York, Joseph also developed the classic equipment pieces that are still used today in Pilates studios around the world.
Pilates is a very effective rehabilitation practice. It is hard to find a rehabilitation method that matches it’s versatility and attention to detail. Conventional gym equipment is not ideal for rehabilitation because it does not facilitate the use of stabilizing muscles in the body. Most people think of abdominals when we talk of stabilizing muscles, but all our joints have them and they need to be trained in a certain way.
For example, with chronic lower back pain we tend to see over-use of the hip flexors and long back muscles, weak core abdominals and stabilizing muscles in the back. Overall, these problems represent a pattern of muscle dysfunction. Some muscles are doing too much work, causing compression on the discs and joints. Stretching will help but not fix the problem entirely. The muscles are controlled by the nervous system and this has to be rebooted. This sounds complicated but it’s like learning a new skill.
Another example is the over-use of the upper trapezius muscles, above the shoulder. Here we find the middle back muscles are weak and so the shoulder blade is literally hanging off the neck muscles. This can cause the common problems of tension headaches, rotator cuff tears and achey neck and shoulders.
The Pilates approach is to address the muscle imbalance so that the symptoms resolve. Combined with the diagnostic skills of a physiotherapist, we can get right to the root cause. Working on the equipment with a trained Pilates instructor is ideal, so that they can help you retrain the right muscles and turn off the over-active ones.
In our rushed lifestyles where appointments seem to get shorter and quality of care is compromised, Pilates is a breath of fresh air in the world of physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Damian Wyard MSc PT
About the Author
Damian Wyard trained is a Registered Physiotherapist and Stott Pilates Rehabilitation Instructor with 20 years experience in his field. He is the owner of Pilates4Physio in Toronto. You can reach him privately at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or at his Pilates studio www.pilates4physio.ca