Many Factors Can Lead to Pilates-Related Injuries

(PRWEB) March 29, 2005

Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Greenwich, CT and NY, NY, March 2005 – Millions of Americans have flocked to Pilates studios over the past several years, searching for a low-impact, less frenetic workout that provides better strength-building and toning results than yoga, but still offers mind-body benefits. While most have found just what they’ve been seeking, some have gotten more than they bargained for: painful joint, tendon and muscle injuries.

“A Pilates-related injury usually comes as a surprise to most who practice it,” explains Kevin Plancher, M.D., “because Pilates began as a rehabilitation program. It’s hard to believe that something that’s supposed to help those who’ve suffered a sports-related injury could actually lead to an injury itself.” In fact, early in the 20th century Joseph Pilates developed the system – while adapting some yoga techniques – to help hospital patients rehabilitate during World War I; years later, dancers adopted it as physical therapy.

There are several aspects of the practice of Pilates that can lead to injury, Dr. Plancher notes, but there are just as many ways to reduce the risks as well. For example, Pilates is largely a sedentary workout, as most of the routine is done on mats and/or aparatus, with such props as stability balls and stretchcords used for balance and resistance. “When a workout solely targets the muscles, it needs to be preceded by a good ten-minute total-body warmup, like a brisk walk,” Dr. Plancher explains. “If you don’t warm up the muscles first, they could be more prone to a stretching injury.”

The Core Issue

Pilates is a uniquely effective workout option because of its focus on the “core” of the body: the trunk and its large, deep musculature. Most of the strength required to perform the Pilates routine originates from the muscles of the abdomen and back, with occasional reliance on the buttocks and quadriceps/hamstrings. But Dr. Plancher points out that this, too, is a potential cause of injury.

“Many Pilates movements that are meant to be completed using the large muscles of the back could cause injury to other areas of the body, such as the shoulders or the arms, if the exerciser were to use improper form or begin to rely too heavily on those smaller muscle groups,” Dr. Plancher explains. “Similarly, some of the lower body movements that are supported by the core abdominals and buttocks can potentially damage the knee, if the exerciser failed to use proper form.”

In fact, the effectiveness of the Pilates program relies on strict adherence to the techniques of each movement – another factor that leaves the window of opportunity open for injury. “Pilates novices may not realize the importance of learning, step by step, how to complete the technical aspects of each movement, and the wisdom of taking the Pilates learning curve slowly…and with a certified, well-trained instructor,” Dr. Plancher adds.

This advice is particularly important because the name “Pilates” is no longer trademark-protected, inviting those with little or no training to set up shop across the mall from those with years of experience. “I advise my patients who wish to try Pilates to have at least one consultation with a certified instructor, too, before pursuing an at-home routine with a DVD and a fitness ball,” Dr. Plancher notes. It’s easier, he says, to learn the basic movements and poses from a trainer, rather than a two-dimensional image on TV.

Injury . . . or not?

Knowing the difference between a well-exercised muscle and an inured muscle is the key to avoiding the most prevalent sports injury of all – the overuse injury. “Recognizing that a muscle or tendon or joint has been compromised, and giving it proper medical attention and time to heal, will result in a faster, more complete recovery,” Dr. Plancher concludes, “And will reduce the risk of reinjury.”


Kevin D. Plancher, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.O.S, is a leading orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine expert with extensive practice in knee, shoulder, elbow and hand injuries. Dr.Plancher is an Associate Clinical Professor in Orthopaedics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY. He is on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Journal of Medicine and Sports.

A graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr.Plancher received an M.S. in Physiology and an M.D. from their school of medicine (cum laude). He did his residency at Harvard’s combined Orthopaedic program and a Fellowship at the Steadman-Hawkins clinic in Vail, Colorado where he studied shoulder and knee reconstruction. Dr.Plancher continued his relationship with the Clinic for the next six years as a Consultant. Dr. Plancher has been a team physician for over 15 athletic teams, including high school, college and national championship teams. Dr.Plancher is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City and The Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT and has offices in Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut.

Dr.Plancher lectures extensively domestically and internationally on issues related to Orthopaedic procedures and injury management. During 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 Dr.Plancher was named among the Top Doctors in the New York Metro area and was the New York State Representative for the Council of Delegates to the American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons. For the past six years Dr.Plancher has received the Order of Merit (Magnum Cum Laude) for distinguished Philanthropy in the Advancement of Orthopaedic Surgery by the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation. In 2001, he founded “The Orthopaedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles”, a non-profit foundation focused on maintaining and enhancing the physical well-being of active individuals through the development and promotion of research and supporting technologies.

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