Let me begin by making it clear that I’m not saying that only a Physiotherapist should teach Pilates. There are some incredible Pilates instructors out there who are not Physios who have great skills and dedicated clients. We have been taught by some of these instructors; their style greatly influences our work and has helped us develop in our own teaching.
Not all Pilates training courses are created equal. Joseph Pilates had the vision not to trademark the specific movements and style of Pilates and that has allowed the Pilates movement to flourish and develop. The downside of this is that you can become a Pilates instructor in a weekend.
Physiotherapists have long recognised the benefits of Pilates and modified Pilates (adapted to suit a population of clients who are unable to do classical Pilates due to an underlying health condition or injury) in treating and preventing injury. Pilates can be used to retrain muscles where habitual movements are causing a problem, improving posture and function following adaptations to an injury, for example a limp following knee surgery. Pilates builds strong bodies which are less susceptible to injury as this exercise style creates balance between muscle groups, lengthening short muscles, strengthening long muscles and encouraging optimum function throughout the body.
A physiotherapist will train for a minimum of three years at University level, studying human movement in great detail. Many Physiotherapists use Pilates-based exercises within their practice and see the benefits of this to their patients before deciding to train as a Pilates instructor alongside being a Physiotherapist. The training specifically for Physiotherapists typically takes an additional 9 months and the Physiotherapist has to practice Pilates themselves during this time.
As a Physiotherapist will have a background in treating injuries, postural problems and chronic pain they can help a client who has a particular problem adapt exercises as needed within a class or one to one setting. For example, if a client has had a hip replacement operation, a physiotherapist will have an understanding of exercises to benefit this as well as certain movements which may be difficult at least in the early stages. Physios are uniquely placed to help these clients to work on the movements which promote rehabilitation and avoid movements which are not suitable in the early stages following hip replacements. We also help to rehab from surgery where you may not immediately think of physiotherapy. For example, we had a client who was recovering from breast surgery and was very tight around her breast tissue. Our knowledge of tissue healing gave us the confidence to help her gradually stretch out the tight tissues within the Pilates class.
If a client has a habitual postural problem which causes them discomfort, the physiotherapist can help by prompting the client into an improved postural alignment. The physio can focus on exercises which help to build the muscles which will improve posture outside of the class as well as gently stretch our muscles which can pull you into a poor posture in the first place. By combining these approaches, an improved posture can lead to better functioning in day to day activities, reduced incidence of aches and pains and generally feeling and looking better.
Our clients regularly turn to Pilates following sporting injuries. Because our classes are small and taught by physiotherapists, the physio can assess whether the client is suitable for a mainstream class, with or without appropriate adaptations to the exercises, or if the client will need a one to one session to work on their specific needs. In the early acute phases of an injury, a client may turn to us for Physiotherapy treatment to maximise function and enable them to return to their Pilates practice and training as quickly as possible and work on preventing further injury.
We can bring our specialist knowledge to a range of conditions. Working with ante and post natal clients, we have specific knowledge of how to modify exercises antenatally while having the confidence to supervise and tailor exercise. We focus on specific areas which can be problematic for pregnant women and incorporate these into an exercise routine which challenges them appropriately at different stages of pregnancy. Postnatally we assess the split between the abdominal muscles (known as rectus diastasis) and can advise on precisely what a woman should be working on to achieve optimum return to fitness. We have knowledge of muskloskeletal issues which can arise postnatally and we know how to tailor and modify exercises to the individual, progressing on to more challenging exercises as the client’s body adapts to the demands of Pilates.
With increasing incidence of low back pain and a recognition that Pilates can be incredibly beneficial, clients will find they have confidence in a Pilates Instructor who is also a physiotherapist as they will know which specific exercises are suitable for rehab with particular conditions and which exercises will not be beneficial. For example, if a client has a facet joint irritation, the physiotherapist will know to avoid any exercise incorporating excessive arching of the back and will train the client to recognise when they are in neutral, increasing comfort and reducing risk of worsening the condition.
You’re in good hands being taught Pilates by a Physiotherapist.
Images thanks to http://www.darrochphotography.com