Clinical Pilates for Post-Operative Rehabilitation


About the author: Sophie Halsall-McLennan is a Physiotherapist based in Drysdale and is the owner of Fresh Start Physiotherapy. She has a special interest in hand therapy and back pain treatment, and has a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from Charles Sturt Physiotherapy, over 12 years of clinical experience as a Physiotherapist and is registered with AHPRA. She is also a Lecturer at Deakin University.

Clinical Pilates as Physiotherapy for Post-Operative Rehabilitation

Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that is focused particularly on an individual’s balance, posture, proximal stability, strength, flexibility and breath control. It is becoming more commonly employed by Physiotherapists in the management of injuries, chronic conditions and  post-operative rehabilitation. Most commonly, Clinical Pilates involves exercises on the mat, the ball, the use of the Trapeze table or the Reformer.

Clinical Pilates targets the strengthening of your deep spinal muscles, hip and pelvic musculature and deep layer of abdominal muscles.  It helps the body to restore normal movement patterns and normal timing of muscle activation.  This improves the control and efficiency of the body.

With a lot of chronic presentations, the body undergoes adaptive changes to compensate for weakness, disuse and pain.  As a result, these asymmetries have lasting changes to our body including our posture. For example, anybody who experiences pain in the knee will alter the way they walk to reduce the pain. Consequently, the painful side can become weaker, the muscles and soft tissues can shorten as the range in which they stretch to will often be reduced.  If muscles and tissues on the other side of the body will have had a sudden increase to their workload, they can fatigue, tighten and give off pain signals. Before too long a happy and healthy individual can present with a primary problem such as knee pain, with secondary symptoms from overuse, fatigue, changes in posture and so forth.  When we see the body as a whole we must treat it as a whole.  Clinical Pilates extends beyond the initial injuries to deliver comprehensive rehabilitation to the body as a whole.

Clinical Pilates’ benefits to post-operative rehabilitation include:

  • Restoring movement to the joints surrounding the affected area
  • Strengthening muscles around the area that has been operated on
  • Restoring normal movement patterns to areas that have developed bad habits or poor movement patterns (eg: hitching the shoulder during “reach”)
  • Exercising in a safe and supervised environment
  • Restoring joint proprioception
  • Participating in effective and intelligent exercises

Some post-surgical presentations that commonly participate in Clinical Pilates include:

  • Spinal Surgery – to restore strength and normal muscle activity around the trunk and pelvis
  • Total Knee Replacement – to improve the strength and movement around the knee, hip and ankle
  • Fracture to the lower limb (ankle / tibia & fibula / femur) – to restore strength, movement, proprioception around the knee, hip and ankle and to normalise walking / running patterns that have been altered with the use of non-weight bearing / using crutches / compensating due to pain and stiffness
  • Total Hip Replacement – optimise the movement and strength around the hip, knee and ankle and to normalise walking
  • Shoulder surgery – to aid with movement, strengthening of the shoulder girdle, middle back and trunk.

Consideration to post-surgical rehabilitation is not limited to Orthopaedic procedures. For instance, Clinical Pilates has been used to aid the recovery of people who have undergone:

  • Abdominal surgery or procedures involving abdominal incisions
  • Cardiac surgery
  • Neurological Surgery (brain surgery)

Clinical Pilates for post-operative rehabilitation is a comprehensive and successful modality that is more commonly adopted by Physiotherapists to optimise the recovery of individuals.

Unite Health provides APPl Pilates courses for Physiotherapists and allied health professionals, including APPI Matwork Pilates AND APPI Equipment Pilates. APPI Pilates Instructor training courses have been designed by Physiotherapists FOR the clinical setting. To find out more about our range of courses click here. 

Sarah Todd (79 Posts)