The theory behind how Pilates helps you to stand tall & manage pain

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Muscle Imbalance & it’s Link to Pilates   

Unless you have perfect posture (which is very rare!) your body is likely to be out of natural alignment and this in effect causes muscle imbalances. Here, we explore how the muscle systems should work together, what can go wrong and how you can improve things.  

Layers of muscles  

The bodies muscles are in layers, with the outer layer composed of the ‘prime movers’ which are large powerful muscles that have the job of moving parts of the body. Beneath this layer of prime movers there is another layer of deeper, smaller muscles. These are the bodies ‘core’ muscles; strong inner (deep) muscles that are important for us to be able to achieve good posture and balance of the whole body.  

Muscles working in the wrong order!  

With poor posture the core muscles become held in a stretched position and the result is a weakening of these muscles. The outer muscles then become overactive and tight as they become overworked. They then often spasm and become a source of pain. This happens as the body learns to preferentially recruit the mobilising muscles and neglects the deeper stabilising muscles. As this becomes ‘habitual’ the imbalance that has developed increases, and good posture and balance continue to deteriorate. The brain accepts that this inefficient movement is ‘normal’, but movement is not as natural as it should be (i.e. as it was when we were young before these bad habits were learned).  

Joseph Pilates Contrology 

This theory of muscle imbalance can be closely related to Joseph Pilates theory of ‘Contrology’. He said that pain was caused by imbalances in the body caused by habitual patterns of movement from repetitive lifestyles. He believed that humans evolved for cave man living and our 21st century lifestyles are un-natural and detrimental for the body. Joseph Pilates developed his combination of ‘Pilates’ exercises to overcome this problem – a daily routine to ensure that the body has the opportunity to move in the way it was designed to do. Pilates is a technique that physiotherapists continue to advocate over 50 years after his death.  

How Pilates corrects movement  

Pilates teaches you to co-ordinate the muscles of the arms and the legs with the body’s centre – those deep tummy muscles! The mind is trained to become more aware of body position while your deep postural and stability muscles are working. This teaches you how correct movement feels. With practice you will regain this as normal movement and regain better posture and body use. Muscle imbalances, that are often a cause of pain, can be corrected through retraining the way in which the muscles work and this leads to overall body alignment and a reduction in the problems that imbalances bring. 

Pilates & the Powerhouse  

The powerhouse in Pilates is the area below the navel that wraps around the back acting like a corset to support the back during movement. Controlled by the deep abdominal muscle the Transversus Abdominus, the Pelvic Floor, the Diaphragm and the Multifidus muscle in the back, these muscles activate at low intensities and support the back during movement. For numerous reasons including poor posture, a history of a back injury or following pregnancy, the ability of these muscles to protect has been reduced. Pilates will re-educate the body on how to use this powerhouse and how to strengthen the back. With this newly re-gained strength, you will be able to slowly re-claim the movement you once had and will be able to return to the functional activities that you may have stopped. Why not be inspired by this quote from Joseph Pilates himself:  

“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” 

Pilates is used by our physiotherapists at KTB to increase postural awareness and to alter faulty patterns of movement by addressing muscle imbalances. Through our Pilates you will notice greater control in your spinal stability, pelvic stability, scapular stability and mobility, enabling you to improve your posture, inner strength and balance leading to overall healthy movement, minimising stress to the joints during everyday activities.      

Join our physiotherapist led classes or book a 1:1 Pilates session at KTB today call 01322 55 22 99 or book online: