People struggling with chronic pain have usually heard from their close ones or their doctors that engaging in regular exercise is a safe and effective way to manage and cope with chronic pain. Regular physical activity is known to produce several health benefits for people coping with chronic pain such as improved overall health, greater joint mobility, and elevated overall mental health.
However, studies have shown that not all exercises are equally practical. While strength training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and cardiovascular exercises have some powerful benefits for healthy people, they are proven to be damaging and exacerbating lower back and joint conditions in some other people. Therefore, an exercise philosophy that is not damaging to the joints and minimizes health risks is essential to manage chronic pain.
Joseph H Pilates is the mind behind the Pilates concept of body and mind exercises. In the early 1900s, he drew inspiration from martial arts, yoga, ballet, Zen meditation, and Roman and Greek exercises to devise a system to manage and cope with chronic pain and strengthen the musculoskeletal system. This system comprises of more than 30 classic Contrology matwork exercises – some of which include the hundred, the rollover with legs spread, the roll-up, the one leg stretch, the spine stretch, and the double leg stretch.
The following fundamental principles of carrying out different exercises are unique to this method and play a significant role in its effectiveness.
This is the first pillar of Pilates’ philosophy. It involves the activation of core muscles, abdominal muscles, and pelvic floor muscles to stabilize the lumbopelvic complex.
Control and Concentration –
As mentioned earlier, Pilates doesn’t only focus on physical exercises but also mind-body connection. This pillar involves control of movement and posture by concentrating attention and developing a proper concentration to perform activities in the right way.
It means paying attention to exercise quality. The exercises are performed in proper breathing rhythm and involve a few repetitions with a gradual increase of difficulty.
A proper breathing rhythm is important to carry out exercises for maximum effectiveness. A correct breathing rhythm helps promote the activation of deep core and trunk muscles.
Pilates method especially emphasizes the mind-body connection and states it as “one” and “inseparable” for proper alignment of body posture. The Pilates sessions are performed on a mat with the use of special equipment, such as Cadillac, reformer, wunda chair, and ladder barrel. Most frequently, the exercises are run individually or in groups.
The Effects Of Pilates Training On Chronic Pain
If you have chronic pain secondary to lower back pathology or any joint condition, you should consider trying a Pilates program to relieve pain and ease associated symptoms. Studies and clinical trials have proven some positive effects of the Pilates philosophy on human health. These include;
Pilates exercises are known to boost the production of endorphins – natural pain killers chemicals in the body that help diminish your pain. Endorphins are just like synthetic pain-relieving medications, such as NSAIDs and opioids. Regular pilate sessions boost the production of endorphins and help block pain impulses from reaching the brain.
Muscle tension is a common condition among chronic pain sufferers. Pilates therapy helps relax tensed muscles and counteract muscle tension by boosting the blood flow. Muscle relaxation also helps soothe surrounding tissues and reduces the intensity of chronic pain.
Low impact on joints
Pilates exercises have a minimal impact on your joints as almost all exercises included in this philosophy are performed in sitting or a lying position. This exercise program’s unique aspect is that you can enjoy all the benefits of strength training and cardiovascular exercises with minimal or none of the wear and tear.
Those with chronic pain in the back or other joints can manage pain and other troublesome symptoms by stimulating the natural production of the body’s own pain-relieving substances and relaxing part of the brain associated with pain.
Unlike other exercise programs or mind-body techniques that are either less effective or have a greater impact on joints, Pilates exercises are a type of mind-body modality that stimulates the muscle relaxation response and boosts endorphins production. This low-impact exercise helps ease chronic pain to many musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, osteomyelitis, and fibromyalgia.