What is Clinical Pilates?

Updated: May 13

Should you make a Clinical Pilates appointment or just go to a group mat Pilates class? Read this first!

Clinical Pilates is a specialised method of exercise that uses particular techniques and equipment to facilitate the optimal activation of muscles during exercise and functional activities. This allows the trained instructor to work the specific areas identified as needing to be activated, strengthened or stretched, according to your individualised treatment program.

The aim of Clinical Pilates is to help make your body movements as free and easy as possible, with a focus on the core muscles in your torso, so that you improve your overall core stability and function.

Benefits of Clinical Pilates

Clinical Pilates can be particularly helpful for:

- rehabilitation after injury or joint surgeries such as knee or hip replacements;

- improving your stamina and ability to keep pace with day-to-day life;

- managing chronic or acute pain conditions;

- managing Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, balance problems and other neurological conditions; and

- improving your athletic performance.

Theory and philosophy of Clinical Pilates

Clinical Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates back during World War One, when he was interred for having German heritage, but showed some skill in working with injured soldiers returning from the front. He wanted to help these patients recover after injury or disease, but he had limited resources. So, he used bedsprings and other ‘found’ materials to create various pieces of exercise equipment.

Clinical Pilates is underpinned by Pilates’ thorough study of human movement patterns, and includes 6 core principles that guide the decisions of your instructor as to which exercises you are given:

  • Concentration: Giving your full attention to each movement means you will gain a greater understanding of your body, its muscles, and how they work together during each exercise.

  • Centring: By focusing on your core muscles to ensure a neutral spine position, you bring your awareness to the centre of your body, allowing you to properly support yourself as you complete your exercises.

  • Control: With sustained concentration and deliberate movements, you will gain complete muscular control that will help you achieve optimal results.

  • Precision: By focusing on each movement so that it is precise, you will ensure that you use the correct techniques and core engagement for each exercise.

  • Breath: Coordinating your breathing with the movements of each exercise, is an integral part of the Clinical Pilates method.

  • Flow: Everything in your body is connected. You can achieve greater ease of movement, and a reduction in discomfort, if all movements performed have a gentle fluidity and grace.

Joseph Pilates’ life

Pilates migrated to New York in 1926, and opened an exercise studio with his wife Clara. Over the next 40 years he refined and applied his exercise method, which he called ‘Contrology’. Apart from treating patients, he wrote two booklets, Your Health (1932) and Return to Life Through Contrology (1945). He also trained many students who went on to be Pilates’ teachers.

After Pilates’ death in 1967, people began calling his exercises the ‘Pilates Method’.

Clinical Pilates vs. mat Pilates

The recent popularity of the Pilates method has meant an explosion of gyms and personal trainers offering mat pilates classes.

A few advantages of the mat Pilates large group classes are that they are usually cheaper, and typically, all that is required is a mat and maybe a few resistance bands, blocks or other small pieces of equipment.

However, if you have very specific needs or a complex condition, large group mat Pilates classes may not give you the support you need to see real improvement. You could also be doing more harm than good, if you are not completing the exercises correctly.

A large group setting usually does not allow for an individualised exercise program to keep you safe from potentially aggravating your injury or causing other problems. In this situation, you should seek out the specialised help of a qualified Clinical Pilates instructor.

Theraspace Physiotherapy and Pilates can offer you this specialised attention from an experienced and qualified physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates instructor.

What to expect from an Initial Appointment with Theraspace

During an initial appointment, a thorough assessment is conducted that establishes your history and how it contributes to your current condition, as well as the specific goals you want to achieve in the coming months, so that you can work towards them together.

Treatment will include a mix of the following approaches:

- manual therapy;

- education about your particular condition;

- an individualised, safe exercise program for home;

- relaxation training; and/or

- cognitive and behavioural strategies to help you in daily life.

So, book an appointment today to get your health journey on track with an experienced Clinical Pilates instructor and physiotherapist!

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