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Can Pilates help relieve the pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis?

It is estimated that around fourteen million people in the United Kingdom have osteoarthritis. It is a painful condition affecting the joints in your body, mainly hips, knees, spine and hands. Over the years protective cartilage between your joints is worn away by wear and tear or through repetitive tasks. This results in pain, stiffness, as well as loss of flexibility and mobility as you become reluctant to move the affected joint.

Osteoarthritis can not be cured and is generally treated by pain relief medication. However, research is now showing that exercise is a great way to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and Pilates has shown to be the most effective and beneficial of all.
Many people with arthritis are often reluctant to exercise, scared they will make their pain or condition worse. Pilates is gentle, low impact and focuses on muscle strength, posture and precise, aligned joint movement. This can all sound very complicated but in reality, Pilates can be done at your own pace, starting slowly and progressing when your body feels able.
Pilates does not stress your joints or surrounding tissue neither does it add pressure to your ligaments and cartilage. Pilates aims to reduce joint pain and stiffness by increasing your muscle strength to your support your joints, improve flexibility and increase your endurance.
One of the benefits of Pilates is that it does not focus on just one area of your body, but helps to ensure that all of your body is balanced and moving well, meaning that you can meet the demands of daily life. You will see changes in your posture, your balance and your wellbeing, not just the one joint that is causing the pain.
Each person with osteoarthritis has their own set of challenges therefore, it is important they set their own goals and they progress at a rate that suits them. It is however important that the any Pilates exercises are progressive.
Below are 4 seated exercises that will give you a better indication of what you can achieve with Pilates exercises. We would encourage you to give them a try so that you can start to benefit from Pilates practice as soon as possible. However, if you want to make a real difference to your flexibility and a marked decrease in your pain, please join  our Pilates for osteoarthritis classes with Stephanie at Pilates Scotland. The classes are on demand and are designed so you can take part at anytime, anywhere and most importantly at your own pace. Stephanie has designed a series of classes that cater for all levels. Within each class, Stephanie will guide you through gentle movements that will help to lubricate your joints whist providing motivation and advice. Pilates has been proven to relieve the pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis. If you would like to start your practice with Pilates Scotland, please click here to benefit from a 14 day free trial.

Neck stretch

  • Sit in the front half of the chair in neutral alignment, feet hip width apart and equally weighed on your sit bones.
  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and allow your right ear to move towards your right shoulder, keeping your face facing forward and shoulders down.
  • Option to place your hand around your head and lightly weigh the head further towards the shoulder to enhance the stretch.
  • Inhale and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder roll

  • Sit on the front half of the chair in neutral alignment, feet hip width apart and equally weighed on your sit bones.
  • Inhale and roll your shoulders forward, up towards your ears.
  • Exhale and roll shoulders back and down to starting position.
  • Repeat 6-8 times and then change direction.

Sitting cat and cow stretch

  • Sit on the front half of the chair in neutral alignment, feet hip width apart and equally weighed on your sit bones.
  • Inhale and engage your core muscles.
  • Exhale and lift your chest and eye line and head.
  • Inhale and return to neutral alignment.
  • Exhale and pull your belly button towards your spine, tucking your tailbone under, showing a c-curve in your spine, dropping your head forward.
  • Inhale to return to neutral alignment.
  • Repeat 6-8 times.

Seated spine twist

  • Sit on the front half of the chair in neutral alignment, feet hip width apart and equally weighed on your sit bones.
  • Inhale and cross your arm to the outside of the opposite knee.
  • Exhale and rotate your spine taking your eye line and head with you.
  • Inhale and bring head back to the front.
  • Exhale and bring the body back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

• Keep shoulders on the floor and feel the stretch in the lower back
• Exhale and slowly bring your legs and head back to the start position and repeat on the other side

Throughout the stretches and movements, keep your core muscles and pelvic floor engaged but try to relax into your stretch. If it feels too challenging at any point, reduce your range of movement and shorten the amount of time spent in the stretch.

If you unsure about your health please contact your health professional for advice.

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