Pilates

How Can Pilates Help Arthritis?

Photo by 1001nights

 

If you have arthritis and are looking for an effective way of exercising which allows you to build strength and improve flexibility while supporting your joints, then Pilates is the answer.  Over the years I’ve witnessed so many of my Pilates clients reduce their joint pain and stiffness and greatly improve their quality of life with this unique method of exercise.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints that can also involve swelling and pain.  There are more than 100 different types of Arthritis,  with Osteoarthritis being the most common type.  This can be caused by wear and tear of the joint structure when joints are put under strain due to poor alignment, obesity or an injury for example.  The condition often worsens with age and results in pain,  stiffness and swelling in varying degrees.  The second most common form is Rheumatoid Arthritis which is an autoimmune disease.  In this case, the sufferer’s own immune system attacks the joint lining which inflames and damages the joints.  It usually attacks the smaller joints such as the hands and feet first,  before spreading to larger joints. Other symptoms include fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell.  The disease is characterised by ‘flare-ups”  when pain and stiffness are most severe and then remission when the symptoms ease. 

How Can Pilates Help?

For sufferers of both types of arthritis,  Pilates is an ideal form of exercise as there is minimal impact on the joints which in this case, are already inflamed or damaged. Pilates develops the core muscles promoting good posture which improves the alignment of the joints,  allowing for more efficient movement.  When the joints are well aligned, it becomes easier to gradually increase the mobility of arthritic joints and work on strengthening the muscles around the specifically affected joints such as hands and fingers or the knees for example.  Being able to tailor and modify the exercises to individual needs makes the exercises very specific and targeted,  reducing pain and stiffness for sufferers.  

During times of increased pain and stiffness, sufferers might not feel like moving, but the gentle, controlled movements Pilates provides are the perfect way to build strength, increase flexibility and maintain the integrity of the joints.  
The chronic pain of arthritis can be unrelenting and Pilates breathing techniques help to restore calm during a session,  resulting in reduced stress levels. Overall, Pilates is highly beneficial for arthritis sufferers.
 
What Type Of Pilates Class Structure Is Best?
 
Ideally, for sufferers dealing with either of these conditions,  it’s best to attend studio Pilates sessions either 1 on 1 or in a small group of 3 or 4 where each person has their own program.  Alternatively, you can follow an Online Pilates program that caters to these conditions allowing you to work through the course at your own pace such as my membership site,  JS Mind Body Pilates Online.  I can also make exercise suggestions if required and you can start now by taking the free 10 day trial, self cancel at any time.   Larger group Pilates classes aren’t ideal as arthritis sufferers need to be able to adapt their Pilates program to their individual pain level which will vary from session to session,  making the options listed above more beneficial.
 
What Else Can I Do?
In addition to their Pilates training, several of my clients over the years have seen an additional improvement in their condition by following an anti-inflammatory diet.  They noticed an increase in symptoms when they ate certain foods which then decreased when they stopped eating those foods.  Walking is also extremely beneficial for arthritis sufferers.  In order to protect your joints, it’s important to avoid hard surfaces and walk on grass or wet sand and ensure you have supportive shoes.  Even though arthritis can be a debilitating condition, Pilates provides the perfect tool for sufferers to take control of their health and manage this condition so they can enjoy a better quality of life.