Pilates and Injury Prevention

When most people think about Pilates, they think of it as a core strengthening modality. While that is one of the benefits of Pilates, the best benefit of Pilates, which is not often mentioned, is its ability to reduce injury incidence and increase body awareness.

We have the motor and sensory homunculus – which is a representation of how much brain is devoted to motor movement and sensation for the parts of the body.

For instance, the hands which have a lot of fine touch receptors and dexterity are represented largely in the brain, as compared to the trunk, which has less proprioception (touch reception) and less movement. Our brain is plastic and the amount of sensation and motor control devoted to each area can change over time. For example a guitar play who has to be able to move their fingers on their left hand with a lot of dexterity and feel the strings of the guitar well will have a lot more brain power devoted to those fingers than to their palm or other areas of the body or compared to non guitar players.

How can Pilates prevent injury?

Musculoskeletal injuries are very common, perhaps even more so, among the fit and active. Injuries often arrive from muscle imbalance and incorrect muscle activation patterns. Pilates is very much about precision and control. It brings awareness to HOW you are moving your body, and redesigns your motor and sensory homunculus. This also helps you to identify areas of weakness, imbalances and tightness. This awareness will carry forward to your daily live and sporting activities, allowing you to maximise your workout safely.

While you may initially feel frustrated by the ‘step-backs’ in strength, speed and performance while correcting your imbalances, you are actually building true strength that will allow your body to attain greater achievements without injuries and its’ associated downtime.

How can Pilates help an injured athlete?

What about if you already have an injury? Being low-impact, Pilates is great for injured joints and muscles, modifications for exercises are also abound and will allow you to maintain current muscle mass while allowing your body to recover.

Many times when a part of a body is injured, we tend to favour other muscles, which results in new incorrect muscle activation patterns and new muscle imbalance that develop. An important part of rehabilitation is to ensure that the body heals ‘correctly’. Poor healing can eventually lead to chronic pain and weakness.

By being aware of how we are moving, we are able to ask ourselves these questions as we perform our daily activities and during training: HOW are we moving? WHAT are we using to move? WHERE is my balance? WHICH muscles are we activating?

Pilates is an incredibly effective cross-training tool. It makes any sport you love even better. Pilates exercises not only strengthen the weaker muscles and give the dominant muscles a break by demanding that you work symmetrically, they also make you more aware of your body, enhancing coordination, balance, power and precision. Pilates improves alignment and breathing and increases efficiency of movement, which translates into less effort, greater power, grace and longevity in your game, whatever that may be.

Originally written for Second Wind Magazine

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