Pilates Has Worked Wonders for My EDS Challenges

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by Karen Del Vecchio |

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proper form and technique

Photo by Shutterstock Pilates strengthens the core muscles.

Back in December I started Pilates. Wow. Seriously, I love it. I never imagined that I’d enjoy working out in the traditional sense, but this is different. In November I took a fall off my horse Spotty (before his injury), badly spraining my right ankle and my left MCL. For once, my EDS saved me; without it, it’s likely I would’ve broken my ankle and torn my MCL. For once, EDS for the win!

While my ankle has been a disaster for a long time and I know pretty much every physical therapy (PT) exercise for it in existence, the knee was a new one for me, so I called to see if by chance my old physical therapist, Lisa, was still at the same office. I was thrilled to find out that she was still working part time!

Amazingly, I hadn’t seen her in eight years. I had spent over two and a half years there trying to fix my shoulder, relearning how to walk (walking with your knees locked out is not, in fact, a good thing), and basically just making me a more physically functional human being.

As of 10 years ago, EDS still wasn’t very well-known. I was Lisa’s first patient with it, and she had been practicing for years. She dived right in and started doing research though, and with some trial and error we found that, at least for me, increasing repetitions on exercises was much more beneficial (and less painful) than increasing weight or resistance. Proper form in doing the exercises was key, and she rarely let one of the assistants help me with my exercises, preferring to scrutinize and occasionally good-naturedly torture me herself.

This time around, Lisa felt like I could really do most of my exercises at home rather than pay for PT sessions, which was great. While I was there I saw Mary Catherine, who had also worked with me extensively eight years ago, and we all chatted and caught up. Having been there for so long, they had become my friends as well, and it was great to see them; I’m not sure any of us had changed very much! While we were talking, MC turned to Lisa and said something to the effect of me needing to try Pilates. Lisa, who is one of the most positive, energetic people I’ve ever met, was like, “YES! With Lianna!”

Lianna, it turned out, is a PT assistant as well as a certified Pilates instructor. As someone who also has issues with being hyper-flexible, she and I can really understand where the other is coming from. I finished my first session with her and I said, “You know, this is the first athletic activity I’ve ever done where I didn’t feel ‘broken.’” It was amazing.

Working out is super hard for me and usually causes more problems than it solves. Lifting weights causes me such joint stress and discomfort that I really don’t enjoy it, and it probably isn’t great for me either. Pilates is different; I can tax my muscles without feeling it in my joints, and I’ve been able to work muscles I haven’t been able to work out in years, if ever. I’ve also immediately felt physical benefits between sessions (I only go once a week).

During my second session, I was doing a long stretch of my back and legs, and I felt my spine, which is caked with scar tissue, relax and stretch like I never had before in my life. It felt SO good. And I noticed that the following week it not only hurt less, but I had no muscle cramping in my back either. Whoa! Talk about some serious improvement. I was hooked.


Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


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