Pain and fear and falls... oh my!
I want to move, but I ache too much. I know my balance isn’t great, but if I walk with my knees bent and leaning forward I feel safer….
Many adults experience joint inflammation and pain, a condition known as osteoarthritis (OA). OA is characterized by the wearing away of joint cartilage (the padding between joint surfaces) resulting in bone rubbing on bone. Ouch! Painful, stiff joints often cause individuals with OA to limit or greatly change the way they move in order to avoid pain.
It may surprise you to learn that the Arthritis Foundation actually recommends exercise as being “the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in osteoarthritis.” (see arthritis.org) The organization goes on to say that three exercise components are most important for individuals with OA: exercises which focus on range of motion and flexibility limitations; aerobic exercises and those aimed at increasing endurance; and exercises which build strength. But how can you exercise if you’re in pain or are limited by fear of movement?
Many of us experience a noticeable reduction in balance and coordination abilities over the years. If we also have limitations in flexibility and muscular strength, a fall is just waiting to happen! Even if you haven’t fallen yet, you may notice that you’ve changed your way of moving and walking in order to protect yourself from the perceived threat of injury. While these changes in the way you move may seem beneficial in the short term, over time they can lead to faulty movement patterns, increased pain and muscle imbalance, and even a greater chance of having a fall! So how do you address your limitations in balance, coordination, flexibility, and strength safely without risking having a fall, something you’re trying to avoid in the first place?
Never fear! Help is here! Pilates is designed to provide positive movement experiences. Pilates routines include each type of exercise recommended by both the Arthritis Foundation and experts in adult medicine and rehabilitation. But how is Pilates different and safer than other forms of exercise? Unlike other exercise methods, exercise with Pilates equipment allows you to experience movement in different positions in relation to gravity. This trains your brain to improve balance and coordination abilities as you move through various positions like supine (lying down on your back), sitting, kneeling, and standing. Each exercise is low impact to enable healthy joint movement, thereby enhancing synovial fluid lubrication and cartilage nutrition. Pilates exercises increase flexibility, which allows reduced pain, joint healing, and stronger muscles on either side of the joint. With Pilates, your body learns healthier movement patterns, your fear of movement diminishes, and your brain re-patterns movement strategies so you can engage in your daily activities with less fear and pain. Regular practice in Pilates lets you get out there and return to the more active lifestyle that you enjoy!