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 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.