Multiple Sclerosis Pilates Information

Studies have shown that exercise for MS may have a substantial and long-term effect on decreasing disability and enhancing the quality of life. Strength training improves gait and balance. Stability exercises limits falls and exercise reduces fatigue.

Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common neurological diseases and affects many of its victims much earlier in life than other neurological conditions such as Stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The general onset for MS is 20-50 years old and is three times more common in women than men.

MS is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. For nerves to work correctly they must communicate with each other by sending electrical signals down the axons, which are contained within the myelin. When the myelin is damaged, the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord cannot communicate with each other effectively. Since myelin damage can impact the entire body, this disease can produce a wide range of symptoms.

“Sclerosis” (also known as plaques or lesions) essentially means scarring-the visible signs of MS that show up on an MRI, mainly in the white matter of the brain and spinal cord, which is largely comprised of myelin. In the most common form of MS, relapsing-remitting MS patients experience alternating periods of relapse (worsening of symptoms or the development of new symptoms) and complete or partial remission. Proper rehabilitation and exercise are essential for maintaining as much function as possible.

Pilates can address nearly every major symptom of MS, as a Pilates teacher I specialise in movement and posture and have an eye for recognising and correcting faulty movement patterns.

Pilates exercises facilitate correct movement behaviour by allowing the client to work in ways that minimize unwanted muscle activity, they can help mitigate inefficient movement patterns and early fatigue. Additionally working with the Pilates equipment allows for task-oriented interventions. Faulty movements can be addressed using springs or changing the body’s orientation to gravity.

I can look at a client’s needs and determine which movements need to be improved ( such as walking) I can work on a similar movement, with the appropriate level of load to the limb or for the support for the trunk. With the studio equipment springs and gravity can be used to assist a client in completing movements successfully which he or she would not be able to do without this assistance. As clients master certain movements, they can be progressed by decreasing the assistance of the springs or changing the orientation of gravity, thus achieving more functional movement. As the client gets stronger he or she can increase the amount of resistance of the spring. Not a lot of traditional exercises offer that option. Studies have shown that working like this in small steps can hasten the recovery process in the case of MS – neuromuscular re-education. MS clients must avoid becoming over fatigued or overheated, Pilates allows for multiple movement patterns without as much cardiovascular effort, so students can safely work harder.

Emphasising proper breathing, correct alignment, concentration on smooth flowing movements, clients can become more connected to their bodies and have better control over their movements. Many MS patients will be very disconnected from their bodies. They need to learn to open up the dialogue. When they can, they begin to move in ways they didn’t believe was possible, it changes their belief model. Being more connected and able to recognise a weakness within oneself, one is more likely to work to rehab it.

After an MS flare up mild problems can remain, these mild problems can cause compensatory patterns that can create other problems. For example, mild foot drop can result in severe pronation which in turn can lead to hip pain, knee pain, back pain piriformis syndrome etc. So what was a temporarily a neurological problem becomes a structural one. Like a person who was in a cast and still limps, long after the cast was removed and the injury had healed.