In this entry, SPEAR’s Kasey Johnson, Physical Therapist and licensed Pilates Instructor, writes about the benefits of Pilates-based treatment and the impact of poor posture on musculoskeletal health.
By Kasey Johnson, PT DPT
I initially discovered Pilates, a method of core strengthening and exercise created by Joseph H. Pilates, as a method of recovery from my own dance injuries and have been practicing for over 10 years. Since becoming a physical therapist I started incorporating the Pilates method of strengthening into treatment sessions after noticing how many patients have difficulty contracting their abdominal muscles correctly and how many musculoskeletal problems are truly caused by poor posture.
Pilates has a strong emphasis on lengthening as you strengthen, specifically in elongating the spine. Since most of us work at full-time desk jobs, we end up sitting in a flexed and compressed posture all day long. We then go to the gym and reinforce this posture by performing crunches and abdominal exercises with a strong emphasis on shortening. This always seemed counter-intuitive to me and Pilates is an excellent method for reversing all of those compressive forces and creating the length and strength necessary for proper posture.
Since initiating the Pilates program at SPEAR I have been able to incorporate Pilates into treatment sessions for a wide variety of injuries and the equipment has given all of our therapists at 56th street a new tool to help patients reach their goals faster and more efficiently.
A Brief History of Pilates
Pilates is a method of core strengthening and exercise created by Joseph H. Pilates. After growing up in Germany with many illnesses leading to muscular weakness he dedicated his life to physical fitness and overcoming these struggles. He studied yoga, martial arts, meditation and Greek and Roman exercises to come up with his own unique program originally named Contrology.
He brought his exercise method to the United States in 1923 and it became a popular recovery method among injured dancers in the 1930s and 1940s. Pilates continued to gain recognition and become well known in the rehab world in the 1990s.
Pilates exercises are performed on a mat, reformer, chair or cadillac apparatus that utilizes springs to assist and resist injured individuals to regain motion and increase strength. It has a strong focus in strengthening the deep stabilizers of the core musculature and improving posture.
Pilates proved to be effective in rehabilitation by allowing for reintroduction of movement very early on in the healing process from injury by minimizing the gravitational effect on the body and minimizing the degrees of freedom within a movement. As a therapeutic exercise Pilates has been found to be useful with patients of all ages and impairments ranging from low back pain to osteoporosis to stroke recovery.