Earlier this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published research estimating that more than 51 million people – that’s more than 20% of US adults – suffer from chronic pain.
Let’s repeat that one more time. An estimated 20% of US adults are living with chronic pain. That is absolutely wild.
In the study, researchers also found that only about 10% of adults recover from chronic pain and become totally pain-free year over year. This is incredibly significant because long-lasting chronic pain increases the risk for depression, Alzheimers, dementia, substance abuse, and suicide.
If you have chronic pain, you know that it makes a huge impact on your life every single day, ranging from what types of jobs you can have to how you can play with your grandkids.
For anyone experiencing chronic pain, consulting with a licensed medical professional should always be your first step. Depending on your type of pain, exercise may lead to significant pain reduction, and can even lead to a completely pain-free recovery.
For many chronic pain conditions, research shows that Pilates is an incredibly effective tool to reduce and eliminate chronic pain.
How Pilates can Impact Chronic Pain
Now, there are many different types of chronic pain. Chronic pain, in general, just refers to pain that lasts longer than 3 months. Some of the most common types of chronic pain in the U.S. include lower back pain and arthritis. Back pain makes up an estimated 10.1% of all chronic pain cases each year.
When it comes to musculoskeletal or inflammatory chronic pain, Pilates can have a significant impact on your body’s ability to recover.
“As an athlete and professional ballet dancer for many years, Pilates has always been a part of strength recovery for me in school and in my professional career. After having multiple injuries, Pilates helped me to get back my strength not just in my muscles but in my overall wellbeing.” – RTR Instructor Katya
Pilates is fantastic for chronic pain because of the types of exercises and areas of focus that we focus on in the classroom.
Low Impact Exercises
Pilates exercises are low-impact, which means that it puts less pressure on your joints. This means that you can enjoy all of the benefits of Pilates without putting further strain on vulnerable joints. For anyone with chronic pain, this can provide a safe way to exercise without exposing your body to unnecessary wear and tear.
Improved Joint Mobility
While general strength training, like weight lifting, builds muscles mostly in the middle of the muscle, Pilates focuses on strengthening the full length of your muscles. This means that people who attend Pilates classes regularly strengthen the muscles around the joints. This provides a greater range of motion and improved mobility.
Strengthening the muscles around your joints can also take pressure off of those joints and relieve much of the pain associated with that specific part of the body.
A Stronger Core
Most of the movements in our bodies draw on our core, and when our core is underdeveloped, other parts of the body end up overcompensating. This can be a big source of back and neck pain, as well as increased risk of injury.
Core strength stems from well-balanced core development. At RTR Pilates, we spend a lot of time focusing on overall core strength, which directly contributes to stability and injury prevention. Because your core is the foundation of movements in other parts of your body, developing your core can protect and reduce pain in other parts of your body.
A big part of Pilates revolves around our awareness of our bodies and guiding our bodies into better posture and alignment. Posture and alignment have a huge impact on musculoskeletal pain.
Good posture and alignment can:
- Prevent muscle fatigue.
- Promote effective and efficient use of the muscles of your body.
- Prevent abnormal positioning of your spine.
- Reduce abnormal wear and tear on joint surfaces.
Reduced Risk of Future Injury
While reducing the risk of future injury isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when combating chronic pain, it is still an incredibly important component of protecting your body and building upon compounding gains.
When you live with chronic pain, you’re already operating at 70%, 60%, 50% or less every day. If you already live with a significant health issue, then an additional injury can be disastrous for your quality of life.
As a low-impact exercise, Pilates strengthens your overall body to build a stronger system and reduce the risk of future injury. This can make it easier to recover from existing chronic pain and feel more in control of your body, which is critical for your mental health and resilience.
Improved Mental Wellbeing
Research shows that Pilates is fantastic for so many different aspects of our mental wellbeing. Studies show that regular Pilates classes can have a positive impact by:
- Reducing stress through a focus on deep breathing
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Improving spatial memory and cognitive functions
- Increasing emotional resilience to stress
- Improving overall energy levels
When you are battling chronic pain, your mental wellbeing is crucial to living with and recovering from chronic pain.
“I love what I do and feel very lucky every time I am able to be in front of a class. Making people feel good about themselves is an honor that I take to heart.” – RTR Instructor Jean Marie
What Does the Research Say?
Over and over again, research demonstrates that regular Pilates classes can have an incredibly positive impact for individuals living with chronic pain.
There have been a number of high-quality studies that examine the relationship between Pilates and chronic pain, especially lower back pain. A systematic review of these studies showed a distinct pattern:
“Patients with chronic low back pain showed statistically significant improvement in pain relief and functional ability compared to patients who only performed usual or routine health care…In patients with chronic low back pain, Pilates showed significant improvement in pain relief and functional enhancement.”
A 2022 randomized controlled study looked at the impact of Pilates-based exercises on individuals with osteoarthritis. Study participants attended 1-hour sessions 3 times a week for 8 weeks. The participants were separated into a control group and a “Pilates” group; the control group attended isometrics classes, while the Pilates group performed Pilates-based exercises.
Researchers found while both groups showed a reduction in pain from osteoarthritis, participants who regularly attended the Pilates classes demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in terms of pain and physical moment compared to the control group.
Remember – Always Consult Your Physician!
Every body is different. If you suffer from chronic pain, always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise plan. They can help you understand what types of exercises will need modification to protect your body.
Start Reducing Your Chronic Pain Today
Our ultimate goal is to make chronic pain conditions as asymptomatic as possible. Pilates is a great tool to build an overall stronger, more supported body.
Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the power of Pilates firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.