Updated: Oct 12, 2021
With the generic brand Pilates, the industry is populated by instructors with varying levels and standards of training, some of whom have little or no understanding of even basic anatomy. Many instructors genuinely believe that they are offering their clients something with great potential, but due to their lack of knowledge, they are unable to understand why some clients get good results from their instruction while others suffer continued or even increased symptoms despite every effort to teach them correctly and specifically.
The chances are that if you have a musculoskeletal issue and you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve been advised by your doctor or specialist to “do pilates”. But did they advise which kind of pilates? Did you know that a standard pilates instructor qualification does not include any training or qualification in rehabilitation or how to apply pilates exercises for specific spinal or other musculoskeletal issues? Or that over half of classical pilates exercises will actually worsen the pain of a prolapsed disc?
Effective instruction is not about delivering an entertaining variety of exercises to maintain client or group interest, but application of the right exercise. Without the necessary foundation in anatomy, musculoskeletal movement and associated pathologies, the most well-intentioned instructor will be unable to define an appropriate routine for each individual. While it’s the role of the clinicians to diagnose pathologies, the pilates instructor is responsible for defining the appropriate exercises and modifications. So if your instructor doesn’t understand the clinical nature of a prolapsed disc, sciatica or facet joint syndrome, or a ruptured tendon, ligament or muscle, clearly they won’t understand which exercises will aggravate or worsen your condition.
Check that any prospective instructor that you will work with is equipped to handle your personal objectives. In particular if you have a musculoskeletal issue make sure that they understand the clinical nature of your issue – do they actually know what it means? Ask them to explain how the correct exercises will be selected for your condition and what a progressive exercise plan might look like for you.