Chronic knee pain can be debilitating. If the pain is severe enough to hinder your daily living or rule out an active lifestyle, then you’ve likely visited an orthopedic surgeon who’s recommended surgery. While the objective of surgery is to increase your mobility, engaging in Pilates after knee surgery can help aid in quicker and more effective recovery.
The knee is a hinge joint and, as such, its main function is flexion and extension — but it lacks what’s known as intrinsic stability. That’s why the ligaments and muscles around the joint provide support. If there’s an imbalance in the ligament and/or muscle strength, it can affect the knee’s functionality. Four primary muscles support the knee: the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip abductors/adductors, and external rotators in the lower leg muscles. Keeping these muscles working in harmony is key to minimizing injury or pain. That’s the objective of Pilates.
While there are many reasons for knee pain, three conditions commonly occur. The first is a meniscus tear, which can happen with something as simple as a sudden twist or turn that causes the knee cartilage to tear. This type of injury is more common in older adults.
Another common condition is a torn ligament. There are four major ligaments in the knee that connect the thigh bone to the lower leg bones and keep the knee stable. Torn ligaments are more often seen in athletes or people who are very active.
The third most common reason for knee pain is arthritis, and there are different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the progressive wearing of the cartilage in the knee joint. It occurs more frequently in people over the age of 50, but can also be caused by weight, genetics, previous injuries, infections, and illness. With rheumatoid arthritis, the tissue around the joint becomes thick and inflamed. Posttraumatic arthritis can result after a serious knee injury such as a bone fracture or ligament tear.
Whatever the reason for your knee surgery, Pilates before surgery is a safe and effective way to prepare your body for surgery and can lend to the overall success of the procedure. Many Pilates exercises focus on maintaining range of motion in the knee to strengthen the surrounding tissue.
In addition, core-strengthening exercises will improve your balance to increase stability postsurgery. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, practicing Pilates will make a big difference inyour recovery. Working on machines such as the Reformer, an instructor can increase or decrease resistance and range of movement to ensure safety in knee flexion and extension exercises. “Bridging on the Reformer will strengthen the gluteal muscles and hamstrings while stabilizing the back of the knee,” says Ron Jegadeesh, Pilates instructor, physical therapist, and owner of Pilates Fitness & Physical Therapy Center in Southfield. The initial focus during rehab will be on working from the core with slow and controlled movements that incorporate proper breathing, he says. As you continue to heal, additional exercises will be added that target range of motion in the knees, as well as strength and muscle memory development, and the improvement of knee flexors and extensors. Finally, you’ll develop and establish a long-term regime so you can continue your rehabilitation while fostering optimal health and fitness.
Plenty of research shows that using Pilates as a rehabilitative exercise post-knee surgery is highly effective. In one study, orthopedic surgeons worked alongside a trained Pilates instructor to create a specific protocol for 38 patients. The patients performed a series of Pilates exercises for at least one hour, three to four times per week. After one year, all 38 of the patients reported they were satisfied — 25 of them said they were extremely satisfied — with the exercise protocol. Not a single patient reported dissatisfaction. Seventy-three percent of them went on to practice Pilates on a regular basis.
If knee surgery is in your future, now’s the time to get connected with a qualified Pilates instructor who can get you started on presurgical exercises. If you’re currently recovering from knee surgery and would like to explore Pilates for rehabilitation, you can do so at any time. You’ll be glad you did.
Ron Jegadeesh, PT, MBA Certified PMA, Polestar Pilates, Stott Pilates®, Gyrotonic®, Gyrokinesis® Instructor
17418 W. 10 Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075
248-552-1012 | 248-552-0657 (fax)