If you live with fibromyalgia, here’s some good news: Pilates has been identified as a potential workout to help keep your symptoms and flare-ups under control through stretching, strengthening, and breathing techniques.
Pilates is an ideal exercise for people living with fibromyalgia. It’s a low-impact exercise and focuses on recruiting key muscles while minimizing full-body fatigue. Pilates teaches you to use the muscles of the back and abdomen without overstraining the joints. You’ll also learn to coordinate breathing with movements and develop a mind-body connection. Pilates focuses on stabilization of the shoulder blades, rib cage, and pelvis during abdominal exercise as well as proper head and spine placement to avoid neck strain.
Here are five exercises to add to your weekly routine.
This exercise is great to gain awareness of your body. You’ll learn how to isolate the abdominals and pelvis while keeping the rest of your body relaxed.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make sure your legs are parallel, hip-width apart. Relax your neck and shoulders, bringing your shoulders down away from your ears. Rest your hands on your hips.
2. Imagine there’s a clock lying flat on your hipbones: 12 o'clock is at your bellybutton, 6 o'clock is your pelvic bone, and 3 and 9 o'clock are at your hipbones.
3. Contract your abdominals and tilt your pelvis to slightly flatten your back. Your pelvic bone (6 o'clock) should now be higher. Keep your upper body relaxed.
4. Use your abs to tilt your pelvis so that the 3 o'clock hip is lower. Continue to move around the clock, tilting your pelvis at 6 o'clock and then your hip at 9 o'clock.
5. Repeat in the opposite direction. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Bent Knee Fall Outs
This exercise works the lower abdominals, obliques, inner thighs, and quadriceps. It’s also ideal for pelvic floor activation.
1. Lie on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat, and spine neutral with a slight curve.
2. Draw your shoulder blades down your back, with your shoulders away from your ears to stabilize your scapulae (shoulder blade bones).
3. Exhale, pull your bellybutton in, and contract your abdominals.
4. On your next exhale, let your right knee slowly open to the side without moving your hipbones. Feel a gentle stretch through your inner thigh.
5. As you inhale, bring your knee slowly back to center.
6. Repeat on the other leg.
7. Repeat for 5 repetitions on each leg. Focus on keeping your abdominals engaged.
This exercise for your buttocks and lower back helps build strong muscles in the legs and glutes. It can ease back pain and tension.
1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Exhale and lift your hips off the floor until your body is in a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core. Hold for 1 count at the top of the movement.
3. Be sure to keep your shoulders on the floor and not to overextend your back at the top, not arching past neutral.
4. Return to starting position and repeat 5 to 10 times.
This exercises targets the lower abdominals and is best done in socks on a slick surface.
1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat, and spine neutral with a slight curve.
2. Draw your shoulder blades down your back, shoulders away from your ears to stabilize your scapulae.
3. Exhale, draw your belly button in, and contract your abdominals.
4. On your next exhale, slowly straighten one knee, sliding your heel along the floor. Keep your spine and pelvis still.
5. As you inhale, bring your knee slowly back to starting position.
6. Repeat on the other leg.
7. Repeat for 5 repetitions on each leg. Focus on remaining stable through the pelvis and using the lower abdominals to move the leg.
1. Start lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms straight beside your body with palms down.
2. Inhale and reach your arms back toward your ears. Think about your ribs softening, stabilizing through the ribcage, and pulling your belly in to support the core. You want to isolate the movement of the arms without arching the back.
3. Exhale and bring your arms back down to your side, maintaining stabilization through the torso.
4. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
According to physical therapist Gabrielle Shirer, an important consideration when creating a Pilates program for fibromyalgia is to keep repetitions to a minimum. People with fibromyalgia often fatigue faster. It’s fundamental to keep muscles comfortable during all phases of exercise. It’s best to perform exercises at a slightly slower pace for a shorter duration of time.
Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. Personalized programs and one-on-one teaching from a certified Pilates instructor are best for people with fibromyalgia due to the individualized nature of the condition. Proper posture and technique is key to finding success with Pilates and eliminating unnecessary pain or injury.
Pilates can be a great low-impact exercise for people living with fibromyalgia. Deep breathing helps oxygenate the muscles. The focus on the mind-body connection can help improve concentration, increase body awareness, and may decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Natasha is the owner of Fit Mama Santa Barbara and is a licensed and registered occupational therapist and wellness coach. She's been working with clients of all ages and fitness levels for the past 10 years in a variety of settings. She's an avid blogger and freelance writer and enjoys spending time at the beach, working out, taking her dog on hikes, and playing with her family.