How Can Pilates Help with Arthritis?

Arthritis comes from the Greek word “Antron” meaning joint and “itis” meaning inflammation.

There are many arthritic conditions but the two main ones are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease affecting the joints, primarily the knees, hips, back and feet.  It tends to happen due to wear and tear of the joints as one grows older whereby the cartilage which acts as a cushion gradually breaks down.  This causes bone on bone friction  which  in turn causes inflammation and consequent pain or stiffness of the joint.  Unfortunately, as we age, our cartilage becomes more brittle and is unable to repair itself so the problem worsens over time.  Sometimes a cortisone injection can help reduce the swelling causing the pain.  Physiotherapy or exercises to keep the joint strong and flexible can help.  Sometimes surgery is required.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease.  It is a defect in the immune system that can cause the system to damage its own cells.  This causes the lining in the joints to become inflamed which in turn breaks down the cartilage cushion, resulting in damage to the bones and surrounding tissues.  Joints become painful, swollen, deformed and unstable.   The condition commonly affects the hands and wrists but can affect any joints in the body.  It is 2.5 times more prevalent in women than men.  Treatment to help alleviate the symptoms include medication, a balance between rest and exercise and sometimes surgery.

The NHS recommends Pilates to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis

Studies have revealed that exercise is good for relieving arthritis pain and promoting healthy joints but exercise should be moderate and low-impact. Pilates is recommended as it is a low impact exercise regime that can help to reduce muscle stiffness and improve joint mobility, flexibility and strength.  Keeping the affected joints mobile is important and can be achieved by performing Pilates exercises on a regular basis. 

Pilates helps to get the blood circulating through the body which promotes less inflammation in the joints.  The strength and flexibility you gain will help you handle arthritis episodes better and can lessen the risk of loss of mobility.  Every time there is a flare-up the joint may not want to move as much afterward. By gently exercising the surrounding muscles you help to regain alignment so that muscles work properly and you get range of motion back. So whilst Pilates cannot prevent flare-ups, it can help with potential side effects. Stiff joints can be painful and harder to use but by being more flexible you will feel better.  Pilates will not make your pain worse or joints more painful, instead you should expect your quality of life to improve.

Why Are Professional Athletes and Sports Men and Women Practicing Pilates and How Can Pilates Help You?

Because they’ve recognised the benefits Pilates can offer them in terms of improving their performance and preventing injuries.

All sports have key patterns of movement and repeated use of these patterns can result in muscular imbalance.  Less relevant muscles can become weak, with the more predominant muscles becoming bulky and tight.  Pilates aims to rebalance muscles and improve postural alignment.

Here are some of the reasons you should consider Pilates to help you with your sport:-.

Golfers

A golfer’s body can be placed under a lot of stress through the repetitive nature of twisting the body on a drive or leaning over to pick up a ball.  Golf revolves around repeating the same movements so over time the body can become imbalanced as some muscles become weakened and some overused.

As Pilates is centred around strengthening the core of the body and most golf shots rely on the core, Pilates can improve the range of motion in your shoulders, back stability and hip rotation. All of these benefits are key to being able to stabilise your body and hit more powerful and accurate golf shots.

Runners

Whilst the heart, lungs and legs play an important part for runners, the body’s centre of power is the core.  The runner who lacks core stability will experience excess movement in the mid-section, resulting in a breakdown of running form; loss of running form hastens fatigue and greatly reduces performance.  Runners advocate Pilates because it builds long, strong muscles, improves flexibility and lessens the risk of injury. Runners often suffer from back, knee and hip problems from the constant impact involved in running. Pilates concentrates on posture and alignment – it opens up the hips, the vertebrae in the lower back and focuses on joint mobility.

Racket Players

Racket sports are by their nature one-sided. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction.  Such pronounced left or right-sided movements load stress on the structure of the body. This produces a physique that is out of balance.

Pilates will work the body more uniformly to prevent over development of one side. It will also strengthen the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winning shot. Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion.

Cyclists

When you start to tire, your form is lost and your body starts to sway from side to side using more energy to move and you start to slow down.  On the other hand if you have a strong core, you are able to hold yourself steady for much longer and therefore cycle further and faster.

Many cyclists suffer with neck and upper back problems from being hunched over a frame for long periods of time.  Tight hip flexors and hamstrings is another common problem. Cycling causes your pelvis to tilt forward, pulling your glutes out of alignment and forcing you to rely too much on your hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back.

Pilates not only provides you with a strong core it can help rebalance your muscles gently bringing your body back into alignment.  

Whilst Pilates offers clear and important advantages for elite sportsmen and women, the benefits are equally valuable for recreational sports people.

We lead ever increasingly sedentary work lives with many of us spending far too much time sitting over our laptops, or in our car or on a train and this is the perfect recipe for tight muscles, poor posture and muscular imbalances. Pilates will help rebalance your body, lengthen those muscles and improve your posture.  So why not give it a go?