How Pilates Can Help Treat Osteoporosis

You’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and you’re probably wondering what to do now to protect yourself. There are so many treatment options available and figuring out where to start can definitely feel overwhelming.  One of the most important things you can do is staying active and exercising.. So which exercises work? We’re going to talk about Pilates and why it can be the perfect addition to your treatment regimen, but first, let’s talk a little about what osteoporosis is anyway. 

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is actually a very common diagnosis, especially in the 50+ community. It typically affects women more than men, but men are absolutely still at risk. It’s a bone disease that thins and weakens bones and decreases bone density. Due to the change in composition of bone and decreased bone strength, the incidence of fractures increases. In fact, most people don’t even know they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs because there aren’t really any symptoms. Because of this, the risk of falls is a major concern with osteoporosis. To help reduce the risk of falls, and possible fractures, an exercise program that focuses on improving strength and coordination is generally recommended.

Pilates Is More Than Just Exercise

Pilates is a form of exercise that includes concentration on each movement, steady and controlled breathing, stretching and strengthening of your muscles.  Many of the exercises focus on your “core” muscles, which are those muscles in your abdominal, back and around your pelvis. Working on your core can help to improve your balance, which will also work to decrease your risk of falling. Pilates exercises are modifiable and can be performed on a mat or with special pilates equipment including the Reformer, Pilates Chair, and CoreAlign   When designing an exercise program for individuals with osteoporosis, there are specific movements that should always be modified. Exercises  that require forward flexion/excessive bending of the spine are not the best choice for osteoporetic patients because of the stress they place on the spine. These movements should be modified with both mat pilates and pilates using the equipment.

How Does Pilates Benefit the Osteoporetic Patient

Pilates is a form of exercise that includes concentration on each movement, steady and controlled breathing, stretching and strengthening of your muscles.  Many of the exercises focus on your “core” muscles, which are those muscles in your abdominal, back and around your pelvis. Working on your core can help to improve your balance, which will also work to decrease your risk of falling. Pilates exercises are modifiable and can be performed on a mat or with special pilates equipment including the Reformer, Pilates Chair, and CoreAlign   When designing an exercise program for individuals with osteoporosis, there are specific movements that should always be modified. Exercises  that require forward flexion/excessive bending of the spine are not the best choice for osteoporetic patients because of the stress they place on the spine. These movements should be modified with both mat pilates and pilates using the equipment.

As we’ve already talked about, exercise is an important part of the osteoporosis treatment program, especially exercise related to improving strength and balance to reduce falls. Research shows the best type of exercise for bone health is strength training and resistance training. Pilates exercises definitely check all those boxes as it can be used to improve strength, coordination and balance, and with the use of the reformer or other pilates equipment, it can also utilize resistance training. A small study in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation was able to show that Pilates is beneficial to those with osteoporosis. This study included 41 women who were split into 2 groups – one group performed Pilates exercises and the other group was a control group. The study showed that the Pilates group not only had an improvement in quality of life, but also increased bone mineral density and decreased pain. 

Not All Pilates Classes Are Created Equal

We established that studies have shown Pilates is an effective way to improve bone mineral density in patients with osteoporosis. One thing to keep in mind is that there are different ways to perform these exercises. Mat exercises are generally what is  offered at your local gym, and they are not always safe for those with osteoporosis because of the stress placed on the spine. When you have osteoporosis it is essential to find a skilled practitioner such as a physical therapist that knows how to modify Pilates exercises for you. The therapists at ScoliosisPTJax have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through a safe Pilates program. They also utilize the reformer to make sure you get the most out of your practice. 

To learn more about our Pilates services and book a consultation, please contact us here.

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