Pilates is well recognized as a beneficial exercise that can help those recovering from injury, chronic pain, as well as athletes looking to cross train. But did you know it is also great tool for those living with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, Stroke and Multiple Sclerosis?
Neurological conditions disrupt brain functioning and can lead to impairment in movement, balance, and day to day function. In Parkinson’s there is a lack of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which impairs movements like walking and fine motor skills. Someone who has had a stroke or traumatic brain injury has had damage to the neurons in the brain and can affect how they recruit muscles making tasks like sitting straight in a chair or moving from one seat to another challenging. Multiple sclerosis effects the myelination of the neurons and makes the path from the command of the brain to the body slower.
The physical impairments from neurological conditions are challenging to overcome. How much function an individual can retain or develop largely depends on the extent of neural damage. However, the brain has the capacity to learn and create new neural pathways, thus through training individuals can acquire new skills. For many cases improvement in function, muscles strength, and coordination can be achieved as they engage in rehabilitation. Research supports that focused exercises can help address functional limitations can create improved ability in tasks like walking speed.
Why is Pilates a uniquely beneficial exercise for neurological conditions? Research has shown that Pilates can help people develop and restore balance, muscle strength and flexibility. Reformer Pilates has the capacity to adjust its intensity to meet the abilities of the students. For example, someone who has right side weakness can reproduce activities that focus on single leg strength helping to alleviate side to side imbalance. Repeating exercises like single leg press or calf raises on the reformer with low resistance allows them to practice the task with reduced fatigue and improve ability to recruit motor neurons.
Pilates can be an influential adjunct therapy for those living with neurological impairment. A skilled instructor will use the Pilates equipment to adjust the intensity, isolate muscle groups and reproduce activities of daily living. Traditionally Pilates focuses on core, control, and balance, all of which can help those with neurological deficits increase their function and improve quality of life.
If you would like to learn more about Pilates and neurological conditions come in and see one of our experienced Physio’s at Bend + Mend.
Guclu-Gunduz, A., Citaker, S., Irkec, C., Nazliel, B., & Batur-Caglayan, H. Z. (2014). The effects of pilates on balance, mobility and strength in patients with multiple sclerosis. NeuroRehabilitation, 34(2), 337-342.
Sánchez-Lastra, M. A., Martínez-Aldao, D., Molina, A. J., & Ayán, C. (2019). Pilates for people with multiple sclerosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Multiple sclerosis and related disorders, 28, 199-212.
Duff, W. R., Andrushko, J. W., Renshaw, D. W., Chilibeck, P. D., Farthing, J. P., Danielson, J., & Evans, C. D. (2018). Impact of pilates exercise in multiple sclerosis: a randomized controlled trial. International journal of MS care, 20(2), 92-100.
Galvin, R., Murphy, B., Cusack, T., & Stokes, E. (2008). The impact of increased duration of exercise therapy on functional recovery following stroke—what is the evidence?. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation, 15(4), 365-377.