The most effective strategy for treating common physical ailments in the body is through movement.
“There’s a lot to be said about when you have pain, stillness isn’t your answer,” says Gayle Hulme, a physiotherapist and co-founder of Lakeview Physiotherapy in Calgary, Canada.
Physiotherapy professionals use exercise to treat pain, but clinical Pilates has not commonly been considered part of the traditional treatment model— and that could be a missed opportunity for providing a system of complete care to clients.
Clinical Pilates, which emphasizes the restoration of full-body functional movement through exercises that challenge posture, balance, strength and stability, is one of the most empowering, safe and progressive ways to deal with patients’ persistent pain and chronic conditions, Gayle says.
“” Pilates is an inclusive form of exercise which aligns with the current literature and practice of physiotherapy and pain science. …Pilates enables clients to participate in exercise when they would not have been able to otherwise.
Lakeview uses Clinical Pilates to treat clients with arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, poor motor control, sports injuries, pre- and post-natal and pelvic health issues.
Lakeview began offering Clinical Pilates about four years ago and now has three physiotherapists who are trained in Pilates on staff: Megan Jenkinson, Jenn Frey and Leah Milne. Megan and Jenn are both STOTT PILATES® Rehab Certified Instructors. The clinic opened up a separate studio space to accommodate the growing demand for this service, with three Merrithew™ V2 Max™ Reformers, one Split-Pedal Stability Chair™, one Arc Barrel and various other accessories.
“We started offering Pilates as part of our services because we felt there was something missing from what we offered in terms of rehabilitation and real-life activities,” Gayle says. “Pilates fills this gap and satisfies the need for clients to be supported while performing more complex post-rehab exercises, but who may not necessarily be ready to join a regular exercise program.”
Lakeview’s physiotherapist-Pilates instructors offer private and the more cost-effective three-person specialized Pilates sessions. As part of the treatment, clients must undergo a physical therapy assessment of their posture, alignment, strength imbalances and tightness.
Physiotherapists are trained to identify and diagnose pathologies and the biomechanical causes of dysfunction. Using those specialized skills and their understanding of Pilates principles and exercises, they can effectively and safely rehabilitate clients who may be too acute to start a regular exercise program.
“Physiotherapists are educated in pain science, anatomy and physiology to help determine when to progress and when pain can be acceptable to work through,” Gayle says.
Since these sessions are provided by a registered physiotherapist and are considered a form of physiotherapy, they’re covered under most employer-based benefit plans.
“Once clients see and feel the positive impact that clinical Pilates makes on their symptoms and body, most consider it an important part of their therapy,” Gayle says. “They can then choose to progress to our Pilates instructor sessions, or return to their activity of choice. Word of mouth referrals come from this type of personal success which leads to an increase in our client base.”
Transitioning clients from physio to fitness
In addition to offering clinical Pilates, Lakeview also added two experienced Pilates instructors to its roster this year, one of whom is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor and applies those principles to her classes. They teach individual and group classes of up to six for fitness and wellness.
“We wanted to offer a wider breadth of Pilates services to our clients, such as those who had completed their physiotherapy care but wished to stay on for the exercise benefits that Pilates brings but at a lower cost than clinical Pilates,” Gayle says. Clients are charged for these classes out-of-pocket.
With a diverse background in fitness, Lakeview’s Pilates instructors bring creativity, variety and breadth to their Pilates programming, helping the clinic engage and retain clients once they’ve graduated from their rehab treatment. The clinic’s Pilates program includes workshops focused on posture re-education, core training, fascia, foam rolling, and foot fitness, among others.
And it turns out, the referrals go both ways. Since the Pilates instructors brought their own dedicated following to Lakeview, now the orthopedic physiotherapists are seeing referrals come in from the Pilates studio.
Four years on, Lakeview’s combined physiotherapy and Pilates practice continues to grow, reinforcing Gayle’s belief that Pilates is a valuable tool for progressing patients “from physio to fitness” and back to their regular lives.
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