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Some setbacks, but mostly gains as double amputee restores functional fitness with STOTT PILATES®

In this new blog series, we’ll be following STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor Carlo Yanez as he guides his client Alex Dainty, a 28-year-old double amputee, on an inspirational rehab journey.

Despite the many research studies and patient anecdotes that point to the benefits of Pilates for rehabilitation, Alex Dainty admits he was dismissive of it when his physical therapist first recommended it as part of his rehab and recovery program following a double leg amputation.

“As a 21-year-old guy at the time, I wrote it off as something only middle-aged ladies did. But after my first session, I was proven very wrong indeed. I had no appreciation for the difficulty of it, for starters, and the benefit that it could bring to my life. …Pilates was so different than I imagined and in such a positive way,” he says.

Alex’s legs were amputated through the knee in 2012, after he was hit by a drunk driver in Galway, Ireland.

Now 28, Pilates has become a constant fixture in his life with “measurable results”.

Carlo instructing Alex on the Reformer

Functional fitness is different for everyone

Three times a week for the last year, Alex has been working with Carlo Yanez, a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor, registered osteopath and owner of boutique Pilates studio, Core Kensington, in London, England, to rebuild his strength, stability and mobility.

During those sessions, they’ve focused on improving his functional movement, all to help him stand, walk, pick things up and do common tasks around the house in his long prosthetics.

“What is considered ‘functional exercise’ for the general population doesn’t necessarily apply to Alex. As a result of his limitations, our functional exercises included Four-point Kneeling (hip extensions), seated mobility, Side Bends on the Stability Chair with legs unsupported, or lying down to sitting (mimicking getting out of bed) as in the Sit-up Combo,” Carlo says.

“Standing exercises on the Reformer, such as Side Splits would be considered super advanced as he does not have any support below his femurs. It would be like someone trying to exercise on their knees while lifting their feet,” he says.

Over the last year, Carlo has seen significant improvement in how Alex moves, holds himself and his overall confidence walking on his long prosthetics.

“Several months ago, he nearly fell trying to walk across the room on his long prosthetics. It was deeply frustrating for him and he left the session. But he returned and kept trying.

“A few months ago, he finally reached that elusive milestone. He got up in between exercises and just walked across the studio on his long legs without any assistance. We were both a bit shocked; it was such a fantastic moment and a culmination of all the hard work he’d put in,” Carlo says.

Carlo working with Alex on the Ladder Barrel

Cueing rehab patients effectively

Their journey hasn’t been without its setbacks and frustrations, but it has been a valuable learning experience.

As his first client with a double amputation, Carlo had to learn how to modify the STOTT PILATES program and Merrithew® equipment to accommodate his clients’ needs. There were many exercises or positions, for instance, that Alex couldn’t be in at the beginning because of the restriction in his lumbar spine and poor core stabilization.

“One of the things I learned as I got to know him was how to improve and better communicate with a client with physical limitations. Initially I was nervous about using cues like ‘stretch your knee and leg straight and feel your heel reaching away’ for fear of offending him. But one day, I wasn’t thinking about it, and I just gave him this cue and he performed the movement so much better.

“When I asked him about it, he said that cue actually helped him visualize and improve the extension of the hip. Once we had that discussion, I started cueing him as I would anyone else. The imagery was recognized by his brain and he was able to connect with the correct muscles,” Carlo says.

For Alex, the learning has been ingrained in his body.

“You don’t get bulging muscles, you get very useful, practical improvements in your balance, stability and strength. Those things make a big difference in a subtle way.

“Occasionally, I’ll catch myself doing something that used to be incredibly difficult before and now it’s very easy, and I’ll have these moments of realization of how much stronger and more mobile I am because of Pilates. It definitely has improved my quality of life.”

Alex’s mobility has improved so much recently that exercises he once found impossible are now achievable. He doesn’t fatigue as easily or complain about any aches and pains.

“His core musculature is remarkably strong and his endurance executing Pilates exercises has greatly increased,” Carlo says. “Walking and moving around seem much easier now.”

Building off a solid Pilates foundation

The plan now is to keep building on Alex’s Pilates foundation so he has enough stability and strength to transition onto his long prosthetics full time.

Carlo had Alex install banisters on either side of his apartment’s hallway so he could practice walking on his long legs at home. He also gives him core strength exercises as daily homework.

Alex is now determined to start going to the gym to build his global strength, something he couldn’t do before because his core muscles and joints were so weak he worried about injuring himself.

“Working with Alex has been fantastic. He is improving more and more each day. There are some setbacks, as always, but we are always moving forward,” Carlo says.

“I have gained a whole new insight into how the body and mind can adapt to anything. It has made me a much better instructor and clinician. I’ve had to quickly learn how to modify exercises and think outside the box.”

Read the other articles in this series
A double amputee discovers the power of STOTT PILATES® as part of his rehab journey

Finding balance between pushing rehab clients and boosting their confidence is key to building trust

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