Monday, March 18, 2013

Pilates and Fibromyalgia

Pilates, when practiced regularly, gives you a brand new body.  But what if your body is in constant pain?  I take calls and emails on a weekly basis asking about doing Pilates and if it will help with _______ issue(s).  One of the most often mentioned is Fibromyalgia.

Those with Fibromyalgia are often in a state of constant pain or muscle tenderness.  Trigger or tender points are also common, meaning that specific parts of the body are sore or tender to the touch.
The causes and a cure for Fibromyalgia are unknown.  Those suffering often feel tired, helpless (wouldn't you if a disease you had didn't have a cure) and weak.

So, what's the good news?  Pilates can be VERY helpful for those with Fibromyalgia.
I have worked with many students throughout the years with Fibromyalgia and many of them continue to work with me now, year after year.
Pilates is not a cure for any disease, but it can ease symptoms and help you to better deal with what is going on.  The students that I work with tell me that movement helps to relieve the pain, focusing on fixing their posture is very helpful for day-to-day life, and that having a stronger core and more muscle control helps them to get through flare-ups and accomplish more when they are feeling well.

How Pilates helps:

  • teaching the mind and the body to work together helps provide a certain amount of control to relax painful muscles.
  • gaining muscular strength to improve daily functions.
  • breathing awareness increases and helps with relaxation.
  • gentle twisting movements, like Saw, can promote nerve function and increase circulation.
  • learning how to properly hold and move the body is essential for those in pain.  
  • moving may be the last thing you want to do when in pain, but for those with Fibromyalgia moving the correct way and incorporating breathing can help to ease symptoms.
To begin Pilates training:
  • check with your doctor to make sure you are ready for exercise.
  • find an instructor that holds a Pilates Method Alliance recognized certification.
  • talk with the instructor before beginning training to set up a plan for your specific needs.
  • Schedule at least on private session before beginning a class.

Most of my students with Fibromyalgia begin with private sessions for no less than six weeks.  I recommend at least one private session a week in addition to group classes.  This allows me to really watch form and to give modifications based on the students needs.
Know that each class will be different for you.  Communication is key to success.  Some days I can really challenge my students and other days, if they are having a flare up, the class will focus on more gentle movements, stretching and slowing down the work.  

Don't skip class just because you are having a flare up.  My students with Fibromyalgia typically feel much better after a class, even when their trigger points are tender.  We slow it down or skip certain exercises if needed.  Movement almost always helps on these days.

If you have questions about Pilates and Fibromyalgia, please ask in the comment section below!


  1. i'd love to see you do a post on the main differences between pilates and yoga. :)

    1. Wow, Kat! I really can't believe I haven't posted about that yet. I kind of thought that I had, and even went back to look. Sure enough, I never have. I will be posting ASAP!

  2. Thanks Sally for an interesting insight into fighting that auto immune disease.

    Good to know a fitness guru :) cheers to a new beginning!!

    1. Hi Ruchira,
      Thank you for stopping by!

  3. What about fat people with fibro in Pilates class?

    1. Hi Jody,
      Pilates can be done by people of all sizes. I currently work with overweight students in mat Pilates as well as on the Reformer and Cadillac. If you have any mobility restrictions due to the fibro or other reasons make sure to discuss it with the instructor. You will feel the benefits of Pilates regardless of if you are at your goal weight or have a few pounds to lose.
      Thanks for asking!


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