Are injuries keeping you on the sidelines? Monique Freer investigates the phenomenon of clinical Pilates and how it can help you get back in action and stay injury-free for good

Are injuries keeping you on the sidelines? Monique Freer investigates the phenomenon of clinical Pilates and how it can help you get back in action and stay injury-free for good

Clinical Pilates is built on the same principles of Pilates that we’ve come to know and love in recent years.

Based on the original work of Joseph Pilates, the increasingly popular form of exercise focuses on strengthening the core and pelvic floor muscles to improve posture and give an overall workout.

But clinical Pilates is slightly different, in that it comes with a teacher. Be it a physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor or accredited Pilates instructor, a clinical Pilates specialist establishes a personalised exercise program to address individual injury or rehabilitation concerns, and closely monitors your progress to ensure you achieve the results you are after.

Physiotherapist and director of clinical Pilates studio Pilates Bayside, Belinda Breust, says that unlike Pilates classes, clinical Pilates is specifically designed to address the individual concerns of the client.

“Clinical Pilates specialists incorporate knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology with the concepts of Pilates exercise to establish an exercise program that addresses injury or rehabilitation concerns,” Breust says.

Clinical Pilates typically involves two pieces of equipment – the trapeze table and the reformer bed, as well as incorporating a variety of small equipment exercises and floor exercises. Both the trapeze table and reformer bed use springs to provide resistance, which can be altered to develop both muscular and core strength that assist in alleviating pain and improving injuries.

The details

If you’re seeking a clinical Pilates specialist for rehabilitation, always ask your treating physician (physio, osteopath or chiropractor) for their recommendations. If you’re picking a specialist from scratch, ensure they are fully qualified (DMA and Stott are two of the most common bodies that specialists are qualified with in Australia), says Bender. Your specialist will be delving into your medical history, so also make sure they’re someone that you like and respect.

As it’s one-on-one, clinical Pilates is not always a cheap exercise. At any studio you will require an initial assessment – usually the most expensive session – before beginning your program. However, because most clinical Pilates studios are operated by physiotherapists, osteopaths or other medical professionals, many sessions can be claimed under extras on private health insurance. Talk to your health fund before starting so you have a good idea of what your out of pocket expense will be.

Benefits galore

By skipping the group Pilates class and opting instead for a clinical program, you will enjoy myriad benefits that come from the individual attention.

Everybody doing clinical Pilates undergoes a thorough assessment by their professional, so there is a good knowledge of how that person is functioning and what particular things will help them in terms of exercise,” says Breust.

No more trial and error with exercise cards or incorrect weights; just like your body, your program is unique. By having it tailored to your individual needs following this in-depth assessment, you will see the results that you actually want much faster.

And the results aren’t simply about toning up, losing weight or gaining strength. Pilates instructor and executive director of Breathe Wellbeing, Raphael Bender, says that by training your body to move correctly, clinical Pilates minimises stress and strain felt by your body when it moves, and maximises the efficiency at which your body works to give you greater strength, speed and flexibility.

Having a baby?

Clinical Pilates has become particularly popular among expecting mums, as one of its numerous benefits is the strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles.

“The core muscles that we target in Pilates include the deep abdominal muscle and pelvic floor, and as during pregnancy there are huge stresses placed on these areas clinical Pilates benefits pre and post-natal clients immensely,” says Breust.

Beginning clinical Pilates during pregnancy also helps the abdominal muscles regain their original strength and function after birth, and assists with maintaining balance and posture as a new mother.

Many studios run specific pre- and post-natal Pilates classes or you can have your individual program targeted for, and adapted throughout, your pregnancy

Farewell pain

It’s this principle that makes clinical Pilates a powerful tool for injury rehabilitation. Like the tent poles required to hold up a tent, all your muscles must be taking equal pressure and of equal strength in order for your body to function correctly. If any changes occur – be it small or large – then like a tent collapsing, the particular area of your body becomes destabilised and injuries occur.

Unlike manual therapy such as physio treatment, clinical Pilates targets both the injured area and the weaker, destabilised muscles surrounding it to relieve pain and improve the injured body part.

“An effective rehabilitation program will take the form of gentle, targeted strengthening exercises for the injured body part and the weaker body areas that predisposed the body to the injury in the first place, as well as rebalancing exercises for the other areas of the body as required,” says Bender.

The other major benefit of clinical Pilates for rehab is that the equipment is designed to cater for any injury and the exercises accommodate the various injuries in a manner that will not aggravate them.

The reformer beds and trapeze tables allow exercises to be non-weight bearing, light resistance, heavy resistance or body weight assisted, and to be done in any different position. So if you can’t lie on your back, sit on your knees, flex your elbow or turn your neck there are still plenty of options for you that will be taught by your specialist. There’s no excuse now for not exercising!

Embrace a painless future
Don’t have an injury or any frustrating niggles in your body? Well firstly, congratulations. But more importantly, don’t disregard this article because you too will find clinical Pilates highly beneficial.

Clinical Pilates is about making your body do what it does, but in a better manner. And if your body is working the way it should – strong, flexible and agile – then you reduce your risk of injury in both sport and everyday life.

“Clinical Pilates is about optimising the body’s function and teaching the muscles to work more efficiently, thereby fine-tuning the body’s natural habits and optimising the body’ s performance,” says Breust.

By integrating a clinical Pilates program into your fitness schedule you will improve your performance and ability, as well as reduce your chance of becoming injured.

Exercising to stay injury free? It’s a win-win combination.

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