People with Multiple Sclerosis face many physical challenges. Among the therapies that can help with their symptoms, Pilates truly stands out. I’ve seen for myself how Pilates benefits MS through my client work, as you will see in this post.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
To understand how Pilates benefits MS, it’s important to understand what the condition is and how it affects the body.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that damages the protective sheath—called myelin—around nerve cells. As one would expect, the resulting symptoms affect movement. Numbness, pain, muscle tightness, and difficulty with balance are some of the symptoms people with MS experience.
Pilates benefits MS because it teaches proper movement. One of the problems people with MS face is overusing muscles, which can result in fatigue. It happens because the person with MS favors stronger muscles over weaker ones inadvertently. Often, he or she will have weakness on one side of the body.
Another issue for people with MS is that muscle weakness often leads to poor posture. This is often due to weak muscles in the torso and lower back. Poor posture can interfere with proper breathing, which interferes with circulation of oxygen through the blood, and so on.
Practicing Pilates can help improve posture, which is another reason it’s an ideal form of exercise for people with MS. Pilates exercises can help strengthen those weak core muscles, helping to improve posture.
Pilates NYC Client Case Study
As a Pilates instructor myself, I know firsthand that the practice is ideal for people with MS, because one of my clients—John—has the condition. A family member recommended that John try Pilates to help with his symptoms, and he agreed. That was two years ago.
John has been wheelchair bound for the past 10 years. He has lost his ability to walk and his back is weak and rounded from so much sitting. I work with John in his home in accordance with his MS physical therapist.
John’s primary goals are posture, strengthening the spine, and lengthening the spine. We also work on his ability to transfer himself from his bed to a chair or to the toilet, etc. To help John achieve these, I use a traveling prop called the PilatesStick, which attaches to his front door. John can use this prop to do different exercises while seated in his wheelchair.
The first step was to teach him to use his transverse adominus—his deepest abdominal muscles—to coordinate lifting from his lower back (lumbar spine) to and through the top of his head. We worked on feeling his lumbar curve and lifting tall. This was something he could use not only during our session but all the time. Making it a new habit.
As time progressed and John became stronger, we began to use his stander (a special apparatus he uses to stand by attaching a belt around himself). John can hold on to the sides of the stander and lift himself away from the back of his chair. This further strengthens his back and creates natural curves in his spine. We work on rotation, letting go of the stander one hand at a time, and turning his body and arm at the same time. We also work on his bed as if it’s a mat, doing chest lifts arm circles, and basic work rolling over side to side.
Since beginning Pilates, John has seen a significant improvement in symptoms. He was kind enough to offer this testimonial to encourage others who have MS to give Pilates a try:
Susan is professional and caring. Her subtle and helpful guidance has helped me improve my posture as well as the ability to do day-to-day things with more ease.
Is Pilates Safe for People with MS?
The short answer, of course, is yes. Pilates benefits MS patients in many ways. But it’s important to work with a qualified instructor who understands the challenges people with MS face. For people with MS especially, one-on-one instruction can make a dramatic difference.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about the therapeutic benefits of Pilates for MS or any other condition.
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