Pilates – Perfect For Pre & Post Surgery

Photo by Dean Mitchell

Being faced with the prospect of requiring surgery can be a daunting experience for many people.  The more physically and mentally prepared you are in the lead up can really assist with the initial surgery and recovery period and Pilates ticks all the boxes for this.  Over the years, many of my clients have practiced Pilates to avoid surgery and for the vast majority, this has been enormously successful.  With appropriate strengthening based on individual needs, many people have been able to delay or completely eliminate the need for surgery such as spinal or joint replacement surgery for example.  However, for some people,  surgery really is the only option to allow them to live their best life possible or in some cases, save their life.  If this is the case, Pilates is the perfect preparation in the lead up to surgery and is then equally beneficial for effective recovery.

Pilates & Elective Surgery

The advantage of elective surgery is that you have the luxury of time to prepare.  The type of surgery you are having will determine what type of Pilates program is best for you.  The Pilates method focuses on working the whole body from the inner muscles, which are the core or abdominal muscles, to the outer muscles.  In addition,  you can then add a specific focus, based on your individual needs.  If you are having knee replacement surgery, for example, your additional focus would be on glute and VMO strengthening. the muscle that stabilises the knee joint.  Balance and proprioception need to be included as well as additional upper body strengthening if you are going to be using crutches.   Look ahead at what your needs will be post-surgery and plan ahead for this.
The Pilates breathing techniques are also extremely useful for maintaining calm in both the lead-up and then on the actual day of surgery.  Studies have shown that being in an anxious and stressed state can have a negative impact during surgery and slow the healing of wounds post-surgery.  Pilates breathing is incredibly effective for calming the nervous system and something you can use whenever you feel you need it which is a very reassuring tool to have.

Pilates & Unexpected or Emergency  Surgery

Unfortunately, this is the type of surgery for which you will very little or no time for Pilates preparation unless it’s already part of your practice.  This situation can occur due to a variety of circumstances such as an accident, a fall or sudden illness that requires urgent treatment.  Some unexpected surgeries my clients have experienced are emergency caesarian section, appendicitis and gall bladder removal where the time between the onset of pain to removal was 72 hours.  At least 3 clients have fractured their wrists due to a workplace accident,  being tripped over by a young child and playing touch football.  All of these required surgery with pins and plates to realign the bones and support the joint.  While none of us like to think this could happen to us, the reality is, it could, so Pilates is like an insurance policy that ensures you are physically strong enough for whatever comes along to ensure a speedy recovery.  All of the clients that I’ve mentioned had great outcomes as Pilates was already a way of life for them and it was an integral part of rebuilding their health and fitness post-surgery.  If you would like to start your Pilates journey too, sign up for JS Mind Body Pilates Online and, take the free 10 day trial now.

Pilates & Post Surgery Recovery

Rehabilitation is standard following some types of surgery such as hip and knee replacements but it depends on the surgeon and factors such as individual level of health cover.  Abdominal and spine surgery patients are generally left to organise their own rehabilitation.  It’s essential to have clearance from your surgeon before starting Pilates post-surgery and you can discuss this at the 6-week check-up.  The Pilates program will be tailored to your individual needs but will always start with gentle strengthening of the core or abdominal muscles to establish or re -establish this connection.  The back and gluteal muscles are also strengthened and then a more specific focus on certain areas can be incorporated.  The post-surgery recovery period is vital as it’s important to ensure joints that have been replaced or injured regain their full range of movement.  The longer the joint is left without adequate movement and appropriate strengthening of the muscles around it, the more chance there is of the range of movement becoming permanently compromised.  A hip joint with a reduced range of movement can lead to imbalances and cause hip, back and knee pain.  Abdominal muscles that have been cut surgically are weaker and without appropriate strengthening, can lead to back pain and hernia in the future.  So as you can see it’s logical to ensure you work to regain your strength and flexibility post-surgery to ensure your future health and fitness.

In my next blog post, I’m going to introduce you to Kathy, one of my clients who has recently had a double knee replacement. She was thoroughly prepared due to her Pilates training and she is going to share her personal tips for successful surgery, so stay tuned for her inspiring story!