Guest Article by MStranslate: Pilates and Multiple Sclerosis

Andrew & Sarah.

Andrew & Sarah.

While many aspects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are yet to be fully understood, one element that is becoming increasingly clear is the benefits that exercise can deliver people living with the disease.

Understanding and communicating these potential benefits to the MS community is vital, as lifestyle modifications that can improve quality of life are incredibly important. Recognising this, Australian-based science communication initiative, MStranslate, has placed a strong focus on this topic during the last twelve months.

This reflects MStranslate’s mission statement to provide objective, accurate and accessible updates on developments in MS research, something that co-founders Brett and Eric Drummond have been doing for the last five years, despite being unfunded.

Inspired by the very positive personal experiences of one of their community members, Andrew, a series of features on exercise were developed in 2017 looking specifically at the potential benefits of Pilates.

While Andrew had undertaken Pilates for many years, it became even more important for him after a very serious MS attack (or relapse) left him with significant mobility issues after a long stint in hospital. Today, thanks to the experienced guidance and support of his instructor, Sarah, from Pilates on Bourke in Melbourne, he has overcome these challenges. In his own words, Andrew says:

“Pilates is endlessly interesting, fun and addictive because you can start at any level. Some things you will excel at and others leave you completely confused but if you do it several times a week it will change your life.”

Andrew’s journey, communicated through a three part written article, a 35 minute short film and a two-part Facebook Live broadcast, all developed and published by MStranslate, has generated significant interest and engagement amongst the MS community.

This video content can be viewed at the link below:
YouTube Playlist: https://goo.gl/Y7Hoou

In turn, these features highlighted a real opportunity for Pilates instructors to learn more about multiple sclerosis and offer tailored, specialised programs for people living with the disease. As Sarah shares, the positive difference that can be made in the lives of people who are living with MS can be highly rewarding. In her own words, Sarah says:

“Working with the MS community is a highly rewarding, challenging and enjoyable experience as a Pilates practitioner. Since beginning my career in the industry, I have been fortunate to work with a number of individuals diagnosed with MS, all at various stages, with differing symptoms and
varying age groups.

What I have become aware of is the benefit of the connection between mind and body for the MS client. By taking a client through a session and applying the Pilates principles, the client experiences positive movement patterns from the exercises together with a sense of fun. By focusing their mind on how to perform the exercises, this allows the individual to shift their focus away from just the site of pain or area of immobility and allow greater movement of the body as a whole. Often what I see is that increased muscle activation and mobility is achieved in the specific area of weakness without the individual having to send all their attention to that one muscle group.

This is where I believe Pilates as a method is so powerful – it works the body as a whole unit, integrating muscle groups and bringing focus and clarity to the mind. To see a smile on an individuals face when they feel a muscle release, an improvement in a particular movement pattern, finding upright balance for the first time or even walking unaided – this is what Pilates is about.

For many clients gaining access to a studio can be difficult due to mobility issues. If a client can get to a fully equipped studio, there are endless opportunities to work with them using all the apparatus, even if wheelchair bound.

I hope that as a Pilates community we can build awareness of the benefits of Pilates to the MS community and assist these individuals to live their lives to the fullest.”

MStranslate believes strongly in the power of positive stories, and would encourage Pilates instructors throughout the PAA community to share their own experiences of people using Pilates to overcome challenges in their lives. At the same time, MStranslate would value any thoughts/comments PAA members may have on Andrew and Sarah’s journey. Collaborating to develop and share such stories is always of interest to MStranslate, and any instructor wishing to explore such a project should contact Brett by email, brett@mstranslate.com.au, or phone, +61 439 636 279.