Term Paper: Pilates and Rehabilitation

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Pilates Helps Rehab Work

Pilates has skyrocketed in popularity, especially in the last decade, when compared to its humble beginnings in a studio apartment.

What is the reason behind this immediate rise in the popularity of the findings of Joseph Pilates? "The Ball" plays a huge role, without a doubt. For decades, Pilates trainers have known the stability ball is an effective complement to their techniques of body training. "Balance on the Ball. Exercises Inspired by the Teachings of Joseph Pilates," by Elisabeth Crawford is a new text, for instance, that combines the principles of Pilates with core training on the stability ball. (Crawford, 2002)

This text, among many others, demonstrates the core principles of Pilates. Many of the exercises are based on Pilates Mat or Reformer movements, while others are standard stability ball exercises. They are all similar in their focus on the six major Pilates principles: breathing, concentration, centering, precision, control and movement flow/rhythm.

In Pilates, there exists a monumental focus on the quality of each movement, rather than the number of repetitions or rapidity with which they are performed. The body moves as one integrated unit, instead of isolating separate parts. Keeping proper alignment and form are crucial during exercise for achieving maximum benefits as well as preventing injury. (Crawford, 2002)

As Crawford writes, "Furthermore, training on a stability ball provides numerous benefits similar to those of Pilates, such as increased muscle tone and flexibility, improved posture, coordination and a greater sense of body awareness. The most significant difference is how the ball addresses core stabilization. Exercising on an unstable surface forces automatic recruitment of the body's core muscles to hold a position of balance.

Since stabilization is a reflex action rather than a conscious effort, training on the ball is often more effective than performing similar movements on the floor. For example, merely sitting on the ball activates core abdominal muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis and the internal and external obliques. If there is an imbalance, such as leaning to one side, the body will correct the imbalance by making subtle adjustments in the opposite direction." (Crawford, 2002)

This relationship exists from the fact that on a neuromuscular level, the brain is focused less crucially on which specific muscles are contracting and primarily on performing the activity without falling off the ball.

Pilates and the Principles

The Pilates Method is, at its basest, a physical fitness system that was created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Joseph Pilates labeled the method The Art of Contrology, which refers to the way the method encourages the use of the mind to control the muscles. It is a holistic exercise program that heaps attention on the central postural muscles that assist in keeping the body balanced and are absolutely essential to providing adequate support for the spine. (Siler, 2000)

Specifically, Pilates exercises instruct the participant in awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment, which are important to help alleviate and prevent back pain.

As Siler noted in his research, "During World War I, Joseph Pilates, being of German nationality, was interned in England, where he trained police officers since 1912. He was investigating ways that he and other 'enemy aliens' could rehabilitate themselves while bed-ridden. Thus the creation of a series of movements that could be done in this position was created. The Pilates Cadilac is based off an old hospital bed.

Instead of performing many repetitions of each exercise, Pilates preferred fewer, more precise movements, requiring control and form. He designed more than 500 specific exercises. The most frequent form, called "matwork," involves a series of calisthenic motions performed without weight or apparatus on a padded mat." (Siler, 2000)

Indeed, Joseph Pilates felt that mental and physical health alike were absolutely critical to one another. Joseph Pilates structured what is claimed to be a method of total body conditioning that emphasizes proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement (the Pilates Principles) that results in increased flexibility, strength, muscle tone, body awareness, energy, and improved mental concentration.

In addition, Pilates also created five major pieces of revolutionary exercise equipment that he asserted should be utilized for obtaining the absolute best results in Pilates.

Although the two portions of Pilates (matwork and equipment exercises) are most frequently instructed distinctly now, the Pilates method was always meant to combine both matwork and equipment exercises. A recent development is gravity Pilates. In all forms, the "powerhouse" (abdomen, lower back, and buttocks) is supported and strengthened, enabling the rest of the body to move freely. (Siler, 2000)

Pilates utilizers implement their own bodies as "weights" in training, to build strength, and flexibility this is targeted without a focus on high-powered cardiovascular exercise. This method has gained so much in respect in the medical world that today, Pilates is used in the rehabilitation process by many physical therapists.

Pilates is actually a rephrasing of an ancient approach to movement re-education that is becoming popular in the field of fitness and rehabilitation. This is because the Pilates environment is able to be used as an assistive environment that maximizes the efficiency of the acquisition of movement with a reduction of destructive forces and can be used to progress individuals through more challenging movements that represent their day-to-day activities. (Crawford, 2000)

Crawford's research points out that research and theories in motor learning, biomechanics, and musculoskeletal physiology help support the phenomena experienced by many Pilates-based practitioners; however, the Pilates-based approach needs to be subjected to the rigors of research to better evaluate its efficacy in the field of rehabilitation. (Crawford, 2000)

In the last decade, thousands of Pilates practitioners have realized critical links with the Alexander Technique as well as with the discoveries of F. Matthias Alexander. The Pilates Method has been used to train dancers in flexibility and physical strength. The first official Pilates Studio was opened in New York in 1926, as is widely publicized.

And, most critically, during the last decade, Pilates has become a popular fitness modality, with many stars attributing their successful weight loss and increased muscle tone to Pilates.

As Pilates grew in popularity through the 1990s and the 2000s, many fitness trainers have begun instructing Pilates without the benefit or recognition of any form of certification or formal traning in the technique. Obtaining certification can be confusing, as there are numerous organizations that offer certification in exchange for a fee or at the end of a course they offer. Some practitioners believe the explosion in popularity has thus led to a dilution of the technique as taught by Joseph Pilates and fear it can cause poor results or injury.

According to Crawford's research published in 2000, "An excellent source for information on the Pilates method is the Pilates Method Alliance. This international, not-for-profit organization focuses on preserving the legacy of Joseph H. And Clara Pilates. It is an inclusive organization that embraces the many disciples of Joseph Pilates, who have taken his work and spread it with their own take on it, while adhering to the original Pilates principles. It offers details on the method, news, and annual conference information, as well as serving as a marketing channel for the members listed in the international member database." (Crawford, 2000)

Pilates' Effect on Rehab

The Pilates method is an amalgamation of muscle toning and strength exercises with a keen focus on flexibility and relaxation and a mind/body method of conditioning that builds strong abdominals, improves posture by stretching and strengthening the spine and muscles.

Most experts agree that Pilates helps immensely with rehabbing from physical ailments such as back and leg injuries - even with seemingly unrelated ailments such as migraines.

However, one must keep in mind that inherited body shapes and postural tendencies simply cannot be modified overnight. (Craig, 2001) However, the Pilates method is highly effective in re-aligning the body and addressing postural weaknesses by targeting small postural muscles on both sides of the spine and strengthening larger muscles and bringing the spine and the body into balance. (Craig, 2001)

And that is not all, according to recent research by Craig: "A strong midsection is key to feeling centred and staying well.

Joseph Pilates saw the abdominal area connecting the abdomen with the lower back and buttocks as the powerhouse of the body. The stronger it is, the more powerful and efficient the movement.

The spine, properly aligned, supports and distributes stresses placed on it. Most activities -- even the most popular sports -- don't strengthen this area. Joseph Pilates' method involves the whole body, balancing the use of the large, superficial muscles with the deep endurance muscles." (Craig, 2001)

Whether one is very strong or weak, injured or in superb shape, a Pilates session can be tailored to one's needs. The key, according to Craig, for applying Pilates to other activities is to work towards self-education and self-reliance so that one can take away the information one learns in a book or class… [END OF PREVIEW]

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