Pilates and MS
MS or Multiple Sclerosis is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with MS - in the disease’s active state, the myelin, a protective sheath around a nerve cell, is damaged. When nerve fibers are damaged, your brain can’t effectively send your muscles the signals they need to flex or contract. As a result, you won’t be able to properly use these muscles. This creates interference in the signals traveling from the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Since our nerves literally travel throughout our entire body, myelin damage can impact the whole body. Symptoms include muscle weakness, partial paralysis, vertigo, imbalance, difficulty with sleeping, feelings or being cold or hot, incontinence, muscle tightness and pain and also problems with memory.
HOW DOES PILATES HELP MS?
In Pilates, you learn to move correctly, with the right muscles, firing at the right time. This helps prevent fatigue (one of the most common symptoms) because you aren’t using more muscles than necessary. We learn to isolate specific muscles and instead of recruiting a whole mass of muscles to do an exercise, we focus on one or a few at a time which tends to take less energy than firing a group of muscles that don't need to be active.
Pilates also manages pain well. Pain can include muscle aches caused by improper movement or neuropathic pain, resulting from damage to the nerve fibers themselves. Neuropathic pain can increase during heated aerobic activity. Pilates minimizes this pain, simply by allowing you to be present and feel your body through complex actions that require intense concentration. It is that concentration that distracts from the pain itself.
ONE-SIDED MUSCLE WEAKNESS AND PAIN
Another common side effect of this condition, is one-sided muscle weakness. Over the years, uneven strength and muscle compensations will result in a slight misalignment in your body. It is the one thing that makes Pilates stand apart from other types of exercises, as we specialize in misalignments and unilateral muscle strengthening to create a sense of balance. One way we work on the weaker side is to start with the strong side so that the brain can see and feel what the strong side looks like when done properly so we can address the weaker side and rely on the brain to convey the message to that new side. It's part of what we study in the world of neuroplasticity and proprioception.
Pilates is for everyone, however in the case of MS, Pilates is the preferred form of exercise; because it allows for so many levels of modifications for a range of difficulty that engages both body and mind which is extremely important for people living with MS.
Contact us for more information on how we can help you maintain mobility after an MS diagnosis.