Pilates as therapy for patients of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis

Pilates as therapy for patients of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s a great time to discuss how beneficial Pilates can be in therapeutical situations including breast cancer recovery. Pilates has been shown to help people with various injuries and diseases rehabilitate their bodies. The low-impact and focused method of muscle strengthening with emphasis on the core can help people who are recovering from car accidents, cancer, athletic injuries and even those living with multiple sclerosis.

Regarding breast cancer patients, Pilates can provide effective physical therapy for those who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy. A mastectomy involves surgical removal of the entire breast and often removal of lymph nodes under the arms. As a result, the surgery to remove breast cancer can leave patients with decreased mobility in their arms and back.

“After surgery their range of motion can be very limited, so just getting the chest to open can be very empowering for them,” Pilates instructor, Tracy Nielsen, said.

Pilates can provide therapy to breast cancer patients through the specific exercises that help improve strength and mobility to the arms, chest and back. The mental discipline required from Pilates also provides benefits to breast cancer patients and people suffering from other conditions.

“Muscle strength, friendships, mental clarity. It’s a win, win situation,” said breast cancer survivor Lisa Muldbakken.

Another disease that Pilates can help in the rehabilitation of patients is multiple sclerosis (MS). Key benefits of Pilates are how it elongates muscles, builds up core strength and increases flexibility. Patients with MS often have problems with balance.

“Balance problems can affect walking ability. A person may feel unstable, need to hold on to a railing to descend stairs and feel unsteady in the dark when he or she cannot see for a visual cue. Some rely on a cane or walker to get around,” says Multiple Sclerosis columnist, Meg Cortright Cadogan.

Cadogan explains that Pilates exercises are beneficial to MS patients since “a strong core gives an immediate feeling of stability and control, and enhances safety in walking, descending stairs and other movements.”

Exercising on a Pilates machine like the reformer can help MS patients relieve spasticity, the painful tightening and stiffness of muscles. “Like all Pilates exercises, there are modifications to machine moves that can help spasticity,” says Cadogan.

Mariska Breland’s neurologist recommended that she start doing Pilates mainly because it was a low-impact form of exercise. At that point, she was having trouble walking as a result of her MS symptoms.

“In Pilates, you learn how to move correctly, with the right muscles, firing at the right time,” explains Breland. “And, if the nerves aren’t sending a muscle the message, you can still work the surrounding muscles. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish by strengthening muscles other than the ones that aren’t working correctly.”

Breland experienced such great results from doing Pilates that she decided to become a Pilates instructor. “Pilates as part of my health plan turned out to be so effective that I started teaching it just a couple of years later,” Breland said. “In my opinion, there is no better exercise for a client with MS.” – T.Y.

Note: As with all medical conditions, please consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.


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