Pilates with a Physiotherapist

By Carol O’Brien

As well as teaching Pilates, I am a physiotherapist and spend the majority of my working hours assessing and treating patients presenting with a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders. As the class is physiotherapist led, each client can expect regular correction and repositioning where needed to ensure correct form throughout the repertoire of exercises. This will reduce the risk of injury through overload of a given structure due to poor positioning and movement patterning. While this approach may feel more challenging to execute in the initial stages, it will ultimately garner a better long term outcome for those of you in the class. Mindful movement, where we aim to engage those smaller weaker muscles, will ultimately help us to promote true muscle balance, rather than tapping into our favored stronger muscles to complete the exercise.

Working as a physiotherapist exposes me to numerous different movement and pain dysfunctions on a daily basis- this makes it very clear to me when clients are compensating during a certain exercise and might need a slight tweak to their positioning, or modification to get the most out of the exercise. The slightest change to position or technique in performing a given exercise can completely transform it and suddenly you feel the effect of the exercise in all the right areas.

How Pilates works for you as an individual:

We are all built uniquely, where one person might find squats easy and planks absolutely torturous, another may find squats an absolute killer, but think planks are a breeze. The point is- we all move differently, and with the normal anatomical variance between people, we will naturally find certain exercises harder and some a lot easier! With this in mind, it would be ridiculous to think that everyone can perform all exercises absolutely uniformly in a class. Thankfully Pilates is not a one size fits all, to achieve the benefits of exercise, it’s important that the exercises we are doing are tailored to the needs of our own body and that they work for us. Pilates is full of modifications- this means that for any exercise you are struggling with, there is an alternative approach to the given exercise that will facilitate you working the same muscle group, with the intention of eventually being strong enough to do the full exercise. This allows us to get stronger at our own pace and reduces the chance of injury. Experiencing the class in this way will help to allow for maximal participation, rather than leaving you sore and stressed because you felt like you couldn’t do the exercise properly.

Pilates for those with injuries:

As well as offering modifications to exercises we struggle with from a strength point of view, I will provide modifications and safe alternatives to allow safe participation to those who are suffering with injury/movement dysfunction. As a physiotherapist myself, I have experience treating and prescribing rehabilitation programmes for a wide range of pathologies. As such I am familiar and comfortable with modifying any exercises from both a pilates and physiotherapy point of view as required, to allow those suffering with or recovering from injury to still get the most out of their class. I also include specific physiotherapy based exercises in my classes that I have found to be of great benefit to my patients. These exercises are very useful in managing ongoing injuries while also complementing existing rehabilitation programs.

In short you can expect a safe class with lots of correction, tailored to your individual needs, where you will feel confident in pushing yourself to reach a greater level of strength and muscle balance.

Eamon Wilson