Pilates is the real deal

7 September 2016
Linda Ford with Senior Physiotherapist Emily Johnson.

Linda Ford with Senior Physiotherapist Emily Johnson.

With back pain affecting at least 80 per cent of us at some point, our musculoskeletal physiotherapy teams are  looking at innovative ways to provide care that makes a long-term difference to patients and empowers them to help  themselves. We met Pilates Physiotherapist Emily Johnson who is offering people an alternative way to  combat pain.

There are a number of reasons why people can suffer with chronic pain. Injury, poor posture or a long-term condition can all be the cause and often lead to years of suffering and discomfort.

Our musculoskeletal physiotherapists, based in our community hospitals and clinics, often see patients who are in pain and at the point where painkillers are no longer making a difference.

For ballroom dancing enthusiast Linda Ford, from Sandown, near Deal, being out of action with muscle pain was simply not an option. The keen gardener leads a very active life, despite living with osteoarthritis for 25 years.

Linda said: “I absolutely believe life is for living, we only get one chance at it! So when I started developing a nasty pain at the top of my leg I knew I had to get it seen to immediately.”

The 57-year-old grandmother, who also cares for her husband John who has interstitial cystitis, said: “It’s important I stay healthy and well so I can care for my husband and enjoy time with my family. When I was assessed by the physiotherapist at Deal hospital and they recommended I join the pilates group, I jumped at the chance. What I thought was a pain in my leg was actually a problem in my pelvis where I had been overdoing it in the community garden and they explained that pilates could really help.”

Senior Physiotherapist Emily Johnson, said: “I see a lot of people with poor posture and reduced strength in the hip, pelvis and abdominal muscles. This can cause the back to become overloaded, leading to pain.

“Often due to fear of causing damage and because of their pain, people avoid moving or develop alternative ways of
moving. This can lead to joint stiffness, muscle weakness and poor movement patterns, eventually causing more pain.”

To help, the service launched an innovative pilates group which helps to improve core stability, mobility and postural awareness.

“Pilates is a great way to get our patients moving again,” said Emily. “The exercises help to regain strength and encourage correct posture and movement. The exercises have been adapted so they are safe for beginners and those with injuries.”

For Linda, it was the opportunity to take control and manage her own recovery. She said: “The course really gives you confidence and opens your eyes to being able to do more than you think. I liked the fact I was being proactive and doing something positive about making myself feel better.”

Clinical Service Coordinator for the team, w Jain said: “Emily is not only a physiotherapist but also a trained instructor. As she plans the classes, she thinks about the fact patients are carrying an injury or are in pain and tailors the programme to their needs.

“We understand many people may be apprehensive about starting something they have never tried before, especially
if they are suffering with pain, so we help them overcome the anxiety too.”

Emily said: “The first week focuses on teaching the principles of pilates and correct posture and trains patients how to activate their core muscles. Over the course of six weeks we gradually increase the number and intensity of the exercises to give patients the confidence to continue them at home and stay active.”

The pilates programme is a six-week course of hour-long sessions that take place once a week. When patients complete the course they are encouraged to join a local pilates group to continue their exercises and learning. There are plans for the team at Deal to offer a course of private pilates classes to these patients in the future.

Pilates? I like the sound of that
While pain is common, sometimes it can indicate there is a different problem.

If you are experiencing or worried about any symptoms of pain or back ache speak to your GP. Where appropriate, they can refer you to one of our physiotherapy teams.

Pilates is offered at community locations in Deal, Sittingbourne, Sheppey, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Tenterden, Sevenoaks, Dartford, Gravesend and Swanley.

Patients must be assessed and referred by one of our physiotherapists into the pilates programme.