• Emma Oliphant

Why Pilates is intelligent movement

Pilates, neuroplasticity and chronic pain



Pain is an interesting and complex phenomenon. Initial education around pain was that it was a simple process, and for the most part it is, e.g. you stub your toe pain receptors carry messages to your spinal cord which relayed pain messages to your brain.


However for those people who live with chronic pain the same acute pain process from injury does not apply, it is far more complex. Instead, chronic pain affects the central nervous system, which becomes overly sensitive to pain.

It is suggested by research that people who experience chronic pain have an impaired neuroplasticity. This means that the brain is less able to change with use, without neuroplasticity the nerve cells become so sensitive that the brain can perceive even light touch as painful. This ongoing recognition of pain by the brain leads to pain disorders.

But it’s not all doom and gloom by increasing the neuroplasticity of the brain pain symptoms decrease.


Exercise is one of the best ways to help. How? by improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain as these are crucial in improving brain neuroplasticity. It’s not a quick fix measure like popping a panadol but over time it helps to reverse the changes that cause pain.


As Pilates is a whole body intergrade exercise it focuses on the mind body connection, but it can do more than just strengthen the mind and body.


A recent study by Italian researchers found improved core strength and stability, posture and balance, and fewer pain symptoms in people with lower back pain who took Pilates classes three times a week for 14 weeks.


Pilates through it's exercises supports with the neuroplastsicy of the brain by challenging the body through what we call intelligent movement. When you think about what Pilates requires you realise its complexity. You need to coordinate the breath with movement, whilst holding another part of your body still or move multiple parts whilst focusing on your posture and alignment.


Pilates is not just physical it involves developing proprioception the ability to understand where the body is in space and control of movement through understanding how much force is required.


The act of new learning through different exercises actually creates new neural pathways the neurons you have for the skill the faster the brain fires. This all significantly increases the neuroplasticity of the brain.


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