How I use Pilates to manage my Pain

Pain management with Pilates

I have been a Physio for 25 years. I”m bloody good at it now too if I do say so myself! There’s not many of us around that have been in the workforce for that long – I think the last research said only 10-15% have more than 15 years experience – many leave the job due pain and the toll it takes on our bodies.

I love my job and how we can help people gain more out of their bodies and the fact that there is always something new to learn, and we can continue to grow and enhance our skills and knowledge.

There are always courses that come up, new methods, new research. But when you look deep into things, a lot of it is similar, just packaged differently with some updates and new methodology. A bit like fitness fads or fashion. Things come around, go out of favour and come back in and we use them slightly differently.

When I was younger I loved neuro rehab. In layman’s terms that’s working with patients that had had a stroke or some sort of brain or nerve damage causing difficulty with movement.

I loved the fact we could get them moving and functioning again. The method we used was called Bobath. It utilised the principle of normal movement patterns. Where there was a lack of movement due to a stroke and the limb wasn’t working – we would try and gain ‘normal movement’ back by stimulating the muscle and helping it learn to move again. If it was over active – we’d try and ‘dampen down’ its spasm and release it to restore normality again.

I work in Private Practise here in Aus. I found that though we could get clients better by manual techniques, it was hard to KEEP them better. People were very passive in their care and would come back again and again for the same issue, with poor compliance to home exercise. The main reason being they didn’t see the importance of it when their pain was better. We forget. Then slowly we slip back into old ways and the pain returns. I was no exception.

I started doing Pilates for myself. I had back pain which was longstanding after being a competitive roller skater in my youth. I had to retire due to back issues and  after being in a demanding manual therapist role for so long my back was not the best.

I also struggled with my thumbs  from  treating all day , and my posture was poor from being hunched over a treatment table. I knew I had to find some other way to try and manage what I was doing otherwise I would have no career left.  I also wanted to find a way that would get the results I was after so my clients could self manage and learn how to look after themselves for longer without needing so much intervention.

Pilates was my answer. I had used a lot of the movement principle we had from my neuro days anyway, but after formally training in Pilates with the specialised equipment, this principle of restoring normal movement is what makes the biggest difference.

I have been able to restore my posture  so I don’t look like a hunch back, and my back pain has been well controlled. I have been able to regain my flexibility and be able to move more easily.

But by far the biggest change has been in what we can achieve with clients. If we give you the tools you need to understand what is going on with your body and how YOU can fix and maintain it yourself, that really is the best and most rewarding thing.

It works well with chronic pain too. Clients who have had pain for years ( as I had), and are willing to try something different. When we are in pain, or have had long standing issues we forget that the body adapts and changes. Muscles and joints move and work differently and over time that can cause more pain, weakness, posture and biomechanical changes that result in reduced function and pain. Many of us don’t get why this happens as its such a gradual deterioration that we don’t see it until its too late.

By then we don’t know what to do. We get pain, can’t sit or stand too long. It limits our activity, we stop doing sport, then we stop doing things we enjoy and before too long we are all consumed with pain.

If we stop and look at how to restore “NORMAL” movement we can start to get going again.

How to get the body to re learn how to move again.

Get stiff joints moving, weak muscles working and over working muscles relaxing, then we can start to get back to living again.

Pilates helped me do that. It gave me back the ability to move again, where before I was in pain.

It has given great results with our clients as we can manage them through the stages of healing and getting movement and strength back, but then also learn how to stay there.

Recently my body was back at square one, and I was in a world of pain and dysfunction.

I had breast cancer last year, and had a bilateral mastectomy and axillary clearance. I used Pilates to help me stay active and regain my movement back. I am still struggling a fair bit due to joint pain, inflammation and muscle weakness and fatigue. But despite all of that, it has been going back to the basic principles and exercises of Pilates along side my own physio management that has helped me most. I am most grateful I started from a place of strength and fitness pre onset or I may have faired far worse.

I know Pilates works. I have been there through back pain and now again in recovery mode. 

The body protects itself when hurt or in pain and changes how we move to create abnormal or compensatory patterns of movement. Good physio management integrated with Pilates and correct exercise prescription is the best way forward for managing pain and dysfunction that I have found.

We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t give our bodies the best chance. We deserve to learn how to self manage and be self reliant. I’m lucky. I know what to do. I know I can change things. If I have pain I know I can try tape, muscle work, joint work and of course Pilates because I can recognise what I need to do and when.

I know when my pain is muscle based, inflammatory based and of course when I need to exercise to move.

That’s what we teach and instil in our clients – what they need to do and when.

Everyone can move the dial. We don’t have to stay and put with with where we are. 

If you are ready to step up and get your body back too, feel free to enquire and see what we can do for you. 

An enquiry costs nothing, but may just change your life.

08 9306 8819 Wanneroo / Hillarys or

Or submit an enquiry form here




Pain. Yes You Can Reset Your Pain and Change Your Body




About Saree Hewlett (135 Articles)
Saree has 20 + years as a physio, training in the UK and completing her Masters in Manual Therapy in Perth, UWA. She has integrated Pilates into her practise having trained in the Polestar method and currently owns and runs two Studios in Perth's Northern Suburbs. A previous international Artistic Skater she understands the needs of sports people and also those suffering from chronic pain and reduced function - we all want the same thing - to be the best we can be! She is married with two active young boys!

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