Pilates Has Brought Me Many Unexpected Benefits

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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As I’ve shared before, Pilates has been an enormous help in managing my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). Although I was introduced to it as recently as December, I have noted improvements in my pain level after only a few sessions.

The fact that I can actually do Pilates doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’ll take it. Usually, any kind of resistance work causes me pain, but Pilates doesn’t. I think that in doing Pilates, I get a chance to feel what a “normal” person experiences after a workout!

I do Pilates at a physical therapy center where I was a patient for about two years after I was diagnosed with EDS at age 22. The two main therapists I worked with are still there, and it was their idea for me to try Pilates with a certified instructor who also is a certified physical therapy assistant.

Lisa is the therapist who did most of the rehab work on my shoulder, while Mary Catherine, better known as “MC,” oversaw my ankle rehab and taught me how to walk again. Before that, I had spent my life stabilizing my knee by locking out my joint and balancing on my bones rather than using my less-than-stellar stabilizing tendons and ligaments.

I’ve been amazed at how much Pilates has helped my shoulder, even though we’ve done little that actually involves it. Working on my posture and core strength seems to be highly effective in reducing shoulder pain, and that’s always a win.

At last week’s session, Lianna pushed me on my core work. While I don’t usually see Lisa while I’m there, MC often works with patients during my sessions. This week, I heard her say something like, “Wow, Lianna, that’s a really killer workout you’re putting her through!”

Oddly, while I felt like my core muscles were going to give out on me, I was excited to hear MC comment about the tough workout I was doing. I usually feel like I have to modify everything, or that I’m not working at the level of “normal” people, so it was gratifying to hear that I was attempting a rigorous workout, and that I was able to do it.

Even going only once a week, I’ve noticed a difference in my core strength and overall stability, and it’s provided obvious benefits all over my body. In teaching my muscles, tendons, and ligaments how they’re supposed to work, my body moves less like one giant stuck unit and more like the individual pieces it was designed to use. That has really helped with my pain and allowed me to strengthen in ways I’d never thought possible. And as another bonus, it’s great for my riding!


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.


Laura Jean Holt avatar

Laura Jean Holt

Thank you for sharing all of these insights. I’m 57 and only just a few months ago was finally diagnosed with EDS. I’ve been searching for answers to my pain and problems since early teen years! Now I’m trying to get “unstuck” as you say. It’s a painful process and I do feel like quitting and just muddling along as I always have. Then I get encouraged. One encouragement is helping a much younger EDSer stay the course so she doesn’t end up like me! I’ve shared this site with her. I’m going to look into Pilates
Thanks for encouragement.

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

Karen Del Vecchio

Hi, Laura! I'm so glad you're finding my columns helpful and encouraging. It can definitely be difficult sometimes to keep pushing to improve, but I've found that it's always beneficial in the long run. Finding a team of amazing professionals has definitely been key to my improvement - a massage therapist, physical therapist, and Pilates instructor who are willing to work with my unique needs. Those are the activities that have been working for me, but we're all different. My biggest piece of advice would be to keep trying to see what works best for you!


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