As we all know, Pilates can improve so many aspects of our health, both body and mind. For those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, symptoms like fatigue, depression and spasticity can take their toll on the overall quality of life.
Although any kind of regular exercise is a help to MS patients, Pilates can offer specific benefits that ease the symptoms of many MS sufferers. Developing core strength and flexibility is a key focus in Pilates, and increasing both can reduce the level of muscle spasticity in MS patients. Increasing core strength and balance is also important for MS sufferers, as stability is often a frustrating symptom.
Breathing exercises, like those utilized in Pilates, can help aid in relaxation. With increased relaxation comes reduced stress and an increased aptitude for socialization, both of which decrease the chance for and severity of depression, a common side effect of MS.
The most common symptom of MS is fatigue, and increasing aerobic capacity and strengthening muscles through Pilates can greatly reduce the severity and frequency of episodes.
An overlooked benefit of Pilates is teaching body awareness, which is great for MS patients that suffer from numbness. Body awareness can help prevent falls and assist in every day tasks.
One of the key things to note when working with Pilates students that suffer from MS is overheating – a raised temperature can increase the severity of symptoms for patients. By situating the student in front of a fan, or keeping the room cooler than normal if offering an MS-focused class, the temperature can be kept down. You can also keep cool, wet cloths handy along with ice chips and cold water.
Another key to keeping your MS-suffering students comfortable: avoiding poses where the head is bent down towards the chest. This motion, especially when held, can activate a symptom called Lhermittes, a sensation in the spine that feels like prickling or buzzing, often associated with that movement.
As an instructor or for those who are looking to become a Pilates instructor, offering classes that are specifically geared to certain populations, like MS sufferers, is a great way to set yourself apart from other practices and trainers, as well as to market yourself to a completely different demographic of people and facilities. You can help both your practice and future students by offering a Pilates course designed specifically for those who suffer from MS.