When it comes to managing chronic joint pain, daily movement is essential to help minimize the pain while also keeping on track with health and wellness goals. However, many patients struggle to adapt to new routines due to fear of overexerting the affected joint and therefore increasing the pain. That’s why low impact workouts like Pilates are a great way to strengthen, tone, and burn calories all while protecting your joints.
What Is Pilates?
Pilates is a form of exercise and body conditioning that was developed in the early 20th century, primarily as a recovery method for dancers.  It’s one of the most popular types of exercise today due to its ability to strengthen and tone muscles, burn calories, and promote mind-body connection.
There are different types of Pilates available based on experience levels, mobility, and personal preference. Some of the most popular types include Reformer, Mat, and Chair Pilates. For beginners and those managing chronic joint pain, it’s recommended to start slowly with either Mat or Chari Pilates at home.
Best Pilates Exercises for Joint Pain
Before you start a new Pilates or any other exercise routine, it’s important to consult with your doctor, start slow and build your way up, and choose exercises that don’t complicate your existing joint pain. And, as with any workout, it’s important to stretch and hydrate both before and after.
Pilates Exercise for Joint Pain #1: The Hundred
This classic Pilates mat exercise is a classic, and often the opening move in many classes. It’s a great way to warm up and get your core ready for a challenging yet low-impact workout! Start by laying on your mat and bringing your knees into a tabletop position. Raise your head and extend your arms outwards and begin pumping your arms up and down. The idea is to get to 100 pumps, but don’t worry if you can’t do that many at first. To make it more challenging, you can extend your legs outwards and upwards.
Pilates Exercise for Joint Pain #2: The Roll-Up
Next, move into the Roll-Up by laying down on your mat with your legs straight. Pay attention to your core; your belly should be pulled towards the floor to reduce any curvature in your lower back. Bring your arms up overhead, take a deep breath and bring your arms up followed by your head and upper back to “curl upwards” and exhale. Lift your arms overhead then slowly roll back down one vertebra at a time. Take another deep breath and repeat 4-6 times.
Pilates Exercise for Joint Pain #3: The Saw
This exercise gives your head and neck a break while still challenging your core and paying attention to the waist. Sit on your mat and place your legs slightly wider than the width of the mat. Straighten your back and pull your head towards the ceiling, like someone is pulling a string up from the top of your head. Extend your arms out into a T position, breathe in, and rotate from your waist to one side while extending the opposite arm towards your toe while the other arm reaches back. Think of this as “sawing off” your toes with your hand. Lean into the stretch and slowly twist back up into your starting position and repeat on the other side. Repeat 3-4 times on each side.
Pilates Exercise for Joint Pain #4: Leg Circles
Leg circles are a great way to work your leg muscles with minimal impact on your knees. To start, lay flat on your mat and pull your belly towards the ground to reduce space between your lower back and the floor. Plant your hands into the mat at your side and raise one leg into the air. If this feels uncomfortable, you can bend your other knee. Point your toe and circle your leg outwards, around in a circle and back, then repeat 4 more times. Switch side and do 5 reps on the other side.
Pilates Exercise #5: Baby Cobra
For the grand finale, the Baby Cobra will give your back a great stretch from top to bottom while also stretching your abs. Lie flat on your stomach on your mat with your arms bent at your side. Breathe in and push yourself upwards with your hips on the floor. Your arms will stay partially bent. Keep your eyes forward, breathe in and out, and hold the post for 10 seconds. Slowly lower back down on the mat, then repeat this movement 4-5 times.
With these simple yet effective Pilates moves, you can get yourself on track with daily exercise while protecting your joints. Remember to always go at your own pace, make modifications as necessary, and stop any movements that cause discomfort.
If you are living with chronic knee, hip, or shoulder pain that’s preventing you from daily tasks and activities, you can complete the form below to request your free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion, which has helped more than 2,000 patients stop their joint pain fast without surgery.