How Clinical Pilates Can Help Your Knee Pain....or Any Other Pain For That Matter!Apr 28, 2022
My journey to discover the total joy of Pilates started after my rather annoying, failed marathon attempt.Not getting my body robust enough to withstand the loading of long runs and some pretty non-optimal technique led to my downfall, a very, very, sore bottom and dodgy knee. The knee surgery I’d had years before was successful and I was strong, but my bottom muscles hadn’t worked in years and no number of squats was helping.
Eventually my hip pain settled with local treatment but there was no progress in how my leg felt when walking. The heaviness in my body remained along with my inactive bottom muscles. I couldn’t tolerate any running and as a Physio, I was pretty embarrassed.
Thankfully the universe was smiling on me. On a whim I signed up to some Pilates classes in London. Quickly I realised what a huge impact it was having on my overall movement. I felt taller, more mobile. I found fluidity I had never felt before. My whole body felt stronger and more connected. I also managed to touch my toes with ease for the first time in years! My mind was clearer too. Classes were tiring as much mentally as physically as I focused inwards.
Shortly after I signed up to my Pilates instructor training and I’ve never looked back. Pilates has become an integral way of how I look after my body and hugely beneficial to most of our clients at the hub.
I’ve talked to you before about how knees are generally the victims of other regions not doing what they should. They can be influenced by regions above, below, or both, as in my case. Everything should be doing it’s bit, like a finely tuned orchestra. Everything should be talking to each other, lengthening or shortening with increased and decreased amount of force. When you move, ALL of you is involved, even if that means not doing much. This is where the true genius of Pilates comes in and why it works.
Pilates – Why the Clinical bit in Pilates makes the difference
With knee pain, just like any other sore region, starting to exercise again can feel daunting and worrying. Physio’s who are also trained in Pilates can give you more confidence you are doing the right thing for your body and the problems you’ve got. They have a more in-depth knowledge of both the injury and rehabilitation process needed to get you back to living life to the full.
Working in smaller groups with your therapist come Pilate’s instructor gives you more hands on time and corrections during your workout. For many, doing regular classes like this saves them having to have more costly one to one appointments with their therapist. They get to do their physio during their workout. Fantastic!
You can also be confident your therapist is looking at ALL of you, not just your knees or the sore bit. They are working on a programme that integrates you working each region of your body together, iron out those kinks and bad habits that are relevant to you.
Overall Pilates has 6 key benefits you don’t want to miss. The following gives you the overview:
Your body grows like a tree, being influenced by life’s stresses, strains, injuries, postures, and habits. Pilates helps you gain more optimal alignment in how you hold your body (posture) and how you maintain your “form” as you move. You learn where your weight should be when moving, so your limbs and trunk work in their best way. Using both verbal and hands on cues, you will learn to co-ordinate muscles to lengthen and shortening with the right amount of force, whilst maintaining the most optimal postural alignment available to you, as you move.
Learning about posture and the best way to “cue” it is essential in Pilates. We are all different and need different cues. Less is more on the effort front avoid bracing and tense positions. When standing developing the ability to get your weight over your midfoot with knees slightly soft (not locked) is a great place to start.
Pilates teaches you how to activate your muscles throughout movement, the beginning, middle and end. It gets you to use your whole body (including legs) in the right way, like a carefully conducted orchestra. This is great when you’ve been protecting or compensating for injuries.
Commonly knee pain is due to imbalances in muscle activity in the leg. Overworking quadriceps (front of thigh) and underworking hamstrings (back of thigh) is a common pattern we see in the treatment room. It’s common in those who love to lock out their knees. Calf muscles are also crucial muscles in supporting the knee with movement and control.
Pilates exercises are easily adapted by a skilled therapist, to support your knees with bands or straps. Starting with lower impact exercise, in positions that don’t involve gravity, is key to starting the strength building process. Pilates is a great start point with easily progressed levels, to add load, make movements harder and build overall strength.
By doing these things you will get stronger throughout your knee range and co-ordinating muscles. This type of strengthening is crucial in stopping the impact of arthritis on your movement. Building strength like this has been shown to help with balance problems and reduce your chances of falling as you get older. Pilates can do all this!
Finally, Pilates is fab for building mental strength too. It takes a lot to maintain focus throughout the class.
As we age, we become less flexible. Perhaps not in every part of your body but certainly in some regions and in some directions. Perhaps those hamstrings feel tight all the time. Stretching them doesn’t make any difference. This is a common story we hear along with an avoidance of kneeling or sitting back on your heels.
All muscles need to learn how to lengthen AND shorten under load. Pilates great way of doing this, working on precision and alignment too for added benefit. The repertoire of exercises can be adapted to the individual, enabling you to develop strength over bigger ranges of movement. Pilates allows you to stretch and work on joint and whole-body flexibility in a really controlled, supported way. You won’t be asked to do anything that feels risky or sore.
With improved flexibility comes improved posture, as you “iron out” some of those kinks. For me, getting more flexible in my ribcage, sorted my head posture. My dowager’s hump has all but gone along with my pokey chin and my shoulders can finally relax! Opening more movement in your body allows you to optimise posture corrections that previously were stiff or blocked to you.
Back to falls, it has been shown in research that the stiffer you are, the more prone you are to falls. So again Pilates is a fantastic anti-aging form of exercise.
Shape and Tone
When done right, Pilates helps tone and work on all your muscles on the front, back and sides of your body. By strengthening them, you increase their “tone”. How they feel and look. You will have more shape as you exercise through bigger movements, so the muscles get healthier in how they are working. I’m not talking beef cake scenario from weight training in the gym. Generally, in class we use body weight or light resistance with the aid of band or weighted balls. Using gravity as the load is a great weight to avoid needing lots of extra props and equipment.
If you notice certain muscle groups aren’t shaping up as you thought, it is likely your brain can’t “find” them due to how you’ve got used to moving. This can sometimes happen. A catch up with your therapist for a one-to-one can figure out why and get you on track with activating them properly.
The famous quote says, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body!”.
Pilates is a great way of gaining endurance in your muscles and body during each exercise and throughout the workout. You will develop the strength first, then get the endurance over time and persistence with your practice. Initially you may need some breaks between exercises but over time the goal is to fluidly move from one movement to the next linking each exercise without a break.
Always focus on your form, correct technique, maintaining your centre and breathing correctly, especially when tiring. This will pay dividends with your overall strength and lead to far better endurance. A change in your breathing pattern often indicates you are losing your form and technique. Fewer, good quality repetitions of an exercise is better than lots of poor technique repetitions. Build it up over time. Provided you are consistent with your practice, it will come.
There is no hiding from it, stress is having a massive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing these days. Many of you are unaware what an impact it is having on your body and health.
It may surprise you to know that regular practicing of Pilates can play a pivotal role in relieving stress as follows:
- You get much-needed time to focus on yourself and your body. You become present to the moment, how your body feels, how you are moving, not distracted by your monkey mind and worry led thoughts. Focusing the mind in this way is almost meditative in its effect on clearing the mind and aiding relaxation.
- The central focus on breathing is key. The calming effect of a simple breath practice can be felt for hours, if not days after. Breath practices (like meditation) have been proven in their health benefits. When your breathing relaxes, your body and muscles can relax and become free of tension.
- Your brain responds when you exercise by releasing endorphins. These natural chemicals give you a sense of wellbeing, aid relaxation, boost positivity and act as a natural pain killer. Your knees will love it for this benefit alone.
- Sleep improves if you are more relaxed so Pilates can help not only your stress levels but also your fatigue. The energy you gain from your regular Pilates practice is the easiest way you can feel and look better, stronger, healthier, and happier.
So Pilates will give you a multi-whammy of wonderfulness! Not only is it good for your knees but every other bit of you. It is fab for your posture, strength, flexibility, tone, and endurance, it is also a marvellous way of easing stress, aiding relaxation, and improving sleep. What better way to live with more energy and vigour!
If you are curious if Pilates could help you, you’d like to find out more or give it a go, pick up the phone on 01548 852355 or email [email protected] and ask for a FREE discovery session with one of our Physio’s. Don’t be daft and miss out on this wonderful type of exercise.
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