Pilates and Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

How is it conventionally treated?

  • There is currently no cure
  • Medication can help control the symptoms of Parkinson’s by increasing dopamine. Unfortunately, side effects may include nausea, insomnia, light-headedness, hallucinations, confusion & as the disease progresses, the effects of the medication tends to wear off, leading to higher doses being prescribed. Higher doses can lead to other adverse side effect eg involuntary movements (dyskinesia)
  • Deep brain stimulation – electrodes are surgically implanted in the brain. This treatment is only suitable for a small percentage of the population and carries all the inherent risks of brain surgery
  • Medical marijuana
  • Exercise – Flexibility (stretching) exercises, aerobic activity, resistance training or strengthening exercises eg biking, running, Tai chi, yoga, Pilates,dance, weight training, non-contact boxing, qi gong (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation https://www.parkinson.org/)

Research on how Pilates helps Parkinson’s Disease

A systematic review & meta-analysis was undertaken in 2019 “Benefits of Pilates in Parkinson’s Disease by David Suárez-Iglesias, Kyle J Miller, Manuel Seijo-Martínez, Carlos Ayán. The results of this research was that “Pilates can be safely prescribed for people with mild-to-moderate PD. Preliminary evidence indicates that its practice could have a positive impact on fitness, balance and physical function. Its benefits on lower-body function appear to be superior to those of other conventional exercises. “

They included eight research papers in their review. These studies are summarised below.

 

Title & authorsResults &/or conclusion of paper

Parkinson disease: functional modifications and potential application of Pilates method (2018) by Do Carmo, V.S.; Boas, L.D.A.V.; Do Vale, A.L.A.; Pinheiro, I.D.M. Rev. Bras. Ciências Do Envelhec Hum.14, 183–194
Link: Parkinson disease: functional modifications and potential application of Pilates method (2018)

In general, it can be said that the Pilates method avoids the aggravation of a series of symptoms that make Parkinson's life difficult and can be a great ally to the well-being of the body and the human mind to maintain the functional independence of the individual, as well as their reintegration into society.

Effect of a Mat Pilates program with TheraBand on dynamic balance in patients with Parkinson’s disease: Feasibility study and randomized controlled trial (2018) by Mollinedo-Cardalda, I.; Cancela-Carral, J.M.; Vila-Suárez, M.H.
Rejuvenation Res., 21, 423–430. Link: Effect of a Mat Pilates program with TheraBand on dynamic balance in patients with Parkinson’s disease: Feasibility study and randomized controlled trial (2018)

The Mat Pilates program performed by a sample population with Parkinson’s Disease led to improvements in dynamic balance, and participants in the Mat Pilates group showed increased strength in the lower limbs, but such improvements were not permanent after the activity ceased.

Feasibility and efficacy of mat Pilates on people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson Disease: A preliminary study (2018) by Cancela, J.M.; Mollinedo Cardalda, I.; Ayán, C.; de Oliveira, I.M.
Rejuvenation Res.21, 109–116
Link: Feasibility and efficacy of mat Pilates on people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson Disease: A preliminary study (2018)

Mat Pilates is feasible and may be a beneficial rehabilitation strategy to improve fitness and quality of life in people with mild-to-moderate PD. Future randomized controlled trials might determine the extent of such benefits.

Pilates exercise and functional balance in Parkinson’s disease (2017) by Bakhshayesh, B.; Sayyar, S.; Daneshmandi, H. (2017) Casp. J. Neurol. Sci.,3, 25–38. Link: Pilates exercise and functional balance in Parkinson’s disease (2017)

Attending an eight-week Pilates exercise was associated with a significant improvement in functional balance, core stability indicators and lower limb strength Given that Pilates exercises involve both musculoskeletal system and nervous system, can be an effective intervention to improving balance in patients with Parkinson's disease.

The effect of a selective Pilates program on functional balance and falling risk in patients with Parkinson’s disease (2017) by Daneshmandi, H.; Sayyar, S.; Bakhshayesh, B.Zahedan J. Res. Med. Sci,19, e7886.
Link: The effect of a selective Pilates program on functional balance and falling risk in patients with Parkinson’s disease (2017)

Attending an eight-week Pilates exercise was associated with a significant improvement in functional balance and falling risk. Given that Pilates exercises involve both musculoskeletal system and nervous system, can be an effective intervention to improving balance and reducing falling risk, especially in people with postural control disabilities.

Effect of Pilates training program on balance in participants with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease - An interventional study (2017) by Pandya, S.; Nagendran, T.; Shah, A.; Chandrabharu, V. Int. J. Heal. Sci. Res., 7, 186–196.
Link: Effect of Pilates training program on balance in participants with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease - An interventional study (2017)

Pilates Intervention with Conventional Balance Training is more effective than Conventional Balance Training alone to improve functional balance, confidence level and functional activities in participants with Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease.

Application of a Parkinsonian Pilates Exercise Program (2014) by Hartmann, C.; Neves, M.D.; Rolim, M.M.; Júnior da, A.T.C.; Barbosa, L.C.; Bezerra, J.C.L. FIEP Bull.84.
Link: Application of a Parkinsonian Pilates Exercise Program (2014)

The study proved to be very effective in the application of the Pilates method in parkinsonians, obtaining significant statistical results regarding strength and flexibility, as well as benefits on balance and quality of life.
The effects of a supervised Pilates training program on balance in Parkinson’s disease (2013) by Johnson, L.; Putrino, D.; James, I.; Rodrigues, J.; Stell, R.; Thickbroom, G.; Mastaglia, F.L. Adv. Park Dis.2013,2, 58–61 Link: The effects of a supervised Pilates training program on balance in Parkinson’s disease (2013)There were significant improvements in balance, certain measures of fitness, as well as improvement trends in some posturographic measures. Participants also reported improved balance confidence with Activities of Daily Living . Our findings suggest that Pilates therapy can be beneficial in PD and warrants further evaluation in a larger study.

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