Counteracting Pathology with Pilates

By Stephaine Scarbrough, Pilates Instructor, Fitness Quest 10

I hope most of you have already reaped the amazing benefits of Pilates. You also may have already figured out that becoming involved in a Pilates-based program will change the way you think about your body, exercise, and your entire well being.

What you may not already be cognizant of is that Pilates can be extremely beneficial for counteracting the effects of many injuries and pathologies, such as Muscular Sclerosis, Sciatica, Chemo Therapy, Bulging Discs, Joint Pain and many other conditions.  I want to discuss something close to my heart, which are the benefits Pilates has on Parkinson’s Disease. A very important and strong person in my life is affected by this disease.

Parkinson’s Disease robs the body of muscle control.  Since Pilates is all about controlled movements, medical experts believe it may be a good way to counteract symptomology of the disease.

An article posted on The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research website quotes Julie Carter, associate director of the OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon:  “Medication that compensates for the depletion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter essential for muscle coordination, is the main treatment for Parkinson’s disease. A healthful diet, exercise and emotional support are the key, Carter says. When Pilates is added to the regimen, patients report improved flexibility, balance, and energy.”

Some other symptoms of PD that may be helped through Pilates are slowness of mobility and movement, muscle and joint stiffness, loss of balance, and changes in posture.

Here are some of the proven benefits of Pilates and how they can help alleviate some of the symptoms of PD.

Benefits of Pilates for Parkinson’s

Heighten neuromuscular coordination.

PD is a slowly progressive degenerative disorder that affects the Central Nervous System. It leads to slowness of movement, difficulty planning, and executing muscle movement. It also is associated with involuntary muscle contractions and relaxation.

Pilates exercises require you to work with as much “mindfulness” as possible toward every movement. The goal with PD and Pilates is not to get every exercise “correct” but to help neurons fire and to work towards connecting the mind and the body to work together as one.

Restore postural alignment.

Postural instability is another common implication of PD and can lead to impaired balance and frequent falls.

Pilates exercises strengthen the deep core muscles, which are very important to help spinal stability, balance and postural alignment. It also helps to create balanced muscle control and length by working the muscle on all plains of movement. A typical Pilates session should not overwork one muscle group and you should find yourself performing exercises on your back, sides, and stomach. This helps to create ultimate spinal stability, postural alignment, and flexibility.

“Keep in mind that you are not interested in merely developing bulging muscles but rather flexible ones. Bulging muscles restrict flexibility because the over developed muscles interfere with the proper development of the under-developed ones.”

-Joseph Pilates

Increases joint range of motion and enhance mobility.

PD can cause joint stiffness, pain, and loss of mobility.

Every movement in Pilates is designed to create length and strength in the muscles. There are ropes and springs on the Pilates apparatus (machines) that are designed to aid with and create movement in the body and joints that may other wise be very hard to perform or execute. Pilates is low impact, easy on the joints, and allows you to isolate and work muscles that some other forms of exercise cannot reach or accommodate.  Pilates can help those who have a hard time moving through every day activities in life. There are also many modifications to every exercise which allows a wide variety of physical fitness levels and restrictions to simply get MOVING!

Reduce stress and boost energy.

PD can cause stress, fatigue, low energy, and simply exhaustion.

Pilates can be taken very slowly, putting the emphasis on movement rather then speed. This can help people living with PD who feel over-worked and fatigued.

Pilates exercises also teaches people awareness and correct execution of breath. Deep breathing allows more oxygen to flow to the blood stream, muscles, and calms the mind and the body. It can also help to cleans toxins and boost energy.

In conclusion, please note that I am not trying to imply that Pilates is in any way a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but it can help to make life and movement easier for those who are living with it.

If you or someone close to you has thought about starting Pilates, I know that they will not regret it. Please do not just take my word for it, try it!

Hope to see you in the studio!

Stephanie Scarbrough was born and raised in sunny Southern California. She is a Certified Pilates Instructor and Massage Therapist. Stephanie moved to Salt Lake City Utah after high school to attend the 1,000 hour Massage Therapy Certification Program at U.C.M.T. After graduation Stephanie moved back to California where she continued her nine year massage career mostly in Chiropractic offices focusing on Injury, Deep Tissue and Sports Massage, but has also worked in Spa’s, Private Practice and was an Instructor of Massage Therapy at Concorde Career College in San Bernardino, California.

About four years ago Stephanie was injured in a car accident and could no longer do Massage Therapy full time. She discovered Pilates as a form of rehabilitation for her injuries and feel in love with it. Stephanie then attended The Sheppard Method 450 hour Pilates Certification program in Los Angeles California. She is certified in Pilates Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair and Latter Barrel. She then opened her opened her own practice in Long Beach California combining Massage Therapy and Pilates. Stephanie has experience training clients of all ages and with many different types of Injuries, Pathologies but has also taught Pilates Boot Camp Classes and enjoys giving challenging and fun workouts.

After five years of living and working in Long Beach California, Stephanie decided to make a permanent move to San Diego to be closer to her sister, new niece and cousin. In her spare time Stephanie likes to draw, paint, travel and stay active exploring and trying new things in San Diego.

“Give without remembering and take without forgetting” -unknown

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Director of Marketing at Fitness Quest 10

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