Knees and hips – replacements for pain!

Bushey-based sports therapist and rehabilitation specialist Jane Collins considers some solutions for preparing for joint replacement and rehabilitation, using clinical Pilates methods

Hip replacement, knee replacement and arthritis in active seniors are issues familiar to therapists but in fact the numbers of younger patients I see with the onset of symptoms is growing.

Research has shown that patients with such symptoms benefit from exercises that involve range of movement and flexibility to relieve stiffness and help mobility, coupled with endurance to strengthen muscles. These exercises will normally stem the onset of joint problems and reduce pain, often delaying and even removing the need for surgery.

This can be achieved by a medically trained therapist such as myself, using clinical Pilates methods. These are not the classic mat-based workouts but a powerful regime using specially designed equipment.

Following hip or knee replacement it is essential to engage in rehabilitation to regain as much movement as possible. The clinical aspect of the equipment means that it is raised and so more easily mounted and encompasses resistance exercises undertaken both laying down and seated. Most are low impact and partially weight bearing, which is particularly helpful to both chronic sufferers and patients immediately post-surgery.

Mrs A.H. from Pinner has experienced such rehabilitation following a knee replacement. She said “After six months of physiotherapy I was still unable to ascend or descend stairs. I then found Jane’s marvellous Pilates therapy and felt much improvement in mobility after just two or three sessions”.

In the onset of these conditions it is common for patients to have let their bodies become out of line as certain muscles become overused and others underused, normally as a result of compensating for the poor function of the joint or to avoid pain. This in itself can result in a variety of ailments from lower back pain to hip and knee problems, adding to the list of complaints. Hence I ensure that patients receive posture, balance and body awareness training and guidance in achieving the proper form and body alignment as part of the bespoke programme I create for them, based on their condition and ability.

Correct use of the clinical Pilates machines ensures this alignment of the patient’s body while the exercises train several muscle groups at once combining principles of breathing, core strengthening and spine articulation. This helps to achieve proper technique that facilitates movement in a safer, more efficient way – invaluable for recovery, good posture and a successful outcome.

Mrs S.C. from St Albans has benefited from such an outcome. She claims to have become a total convert to clinical Pilates following my therapy for back and knee pain and mobility. She said “Jane and her system allow me to enjoy life to the full again”.

In addition, because of this function of body alignment and improved core strength, clinical Pilates prior to an operation will provide a basis for a more effective and successful rehabilitation, a programme I call ‘pre-hab’. These preparatory exercises work on core stability and strengthening the musculature affected in the joint replacement; if strong, it is more likely to resume its correct position and support the new joint, all adding to the speed of recovery. The patient will also be given exercise programmes to follow at home between sessions.