A Pilates Story: Knee Surgery Rehab

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As a physical therapist and a Pilates teacher, I receive a fair amount of questions regarding rehabilitation and the place Pilates occupies in this process. What follows is my first-person account of my ongoing journey with Pilates and rehabilitation.

This year I had knee surgery. It was the first surgery I have ever had and I had no idea what to expect. After decades of training clients with limitations and injuries, I was about to join their ranks.

An old dance injury got progressively worse over a few decades and before I knew it, I was having trouble on stairs. I delayed the inevitable for over two years but, at the end of the day, surgical intervention made the most sense.

My medial meniscus in my right leg was torn and required a repair. Phase one of my recovery involved crutches and then a locked knee brace that allows no bending of the knee when walking. Phase two will include unlocking the brace and then ultimately discarding the brace. Phase three will focus on restoring full range of motion and strength. My recovery process will be about 12 weeks in total and I plan to use Pilates for all of it.  

Mapping out my first four weeks was simple as it involved only the Mat work. I focused on just 6 of the original 34 Mat moves. By week two, I was up to 16 moves, despite my cumbersome leg brace. It turns out that much of the classical mat work involves straight legs.

Without having to worry about bending my knee, the workout became much easier to expand. Week 3 will continue to grow this list but with my brace unlocked I'll be able to add exercise where the knee bends. My task will be to modify those moves to be sure my leg does not bend past 90 degrees of flexion.

The final week of Phase 1 will include most of the complete original Mat. 

Once my brace is discarded my job will be to restore my full range of motion which will require some aggressive strategies. For that, I will return to the Pilates equipment and utilize the springs to help me restore balance and symmetry in my lower limbs.

Rehabilitating from an injury doesn't have to tackle the site of the injury at first. Use Pilates to work around the injury initially. Working everything else that is healthy keeps circulation moving and energy high which helps motivate you to push through to the finish line .  

Included below is my own rehab Pilates calendar. Feel free to borrow, print or adapt for your own needs.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

 Hundred

 Roll Up

 One Leg circle

 Spine Stretch

 Saw

 Side Kick

 

 Hundred

 Roll Up

 Roll Over

 One Leg circle

 Spine Stretch

 Corkscrew

 Saw

 Neck Pull

 Spine Twist

 Jack Knife

 Side Kick

 Teaser

 Hip Twist

 Swimming

 Boomerang

 Control Balance

 Hundred

 Roll Up

 Roll Over

 One Leg circle

 Rolling Back

 One Leg stretch

 Double Leg stretch

 Spine Stretch

 Rocker with Open legs

 Corkscrew

 Saw

 Swan Dive

 One Leg Kick

 Neck Pull

 Shoulder Bridge

 Spine Twist

 Jack Knife

 Side Kick

 Teaser

 Hip Twist

 Swimming

 Leg Pulls front 

 Side Bend

 Boomerang

 Seal 

 Control Balance

 Push Up

 Hundred

 Roll Up

 Roll Over

 One Leg Circle

 Rolling Back

 One Leg stretch

 Double Leg stretch

 Spine Stretch

 Rocker with Open legs

 Corkscrew

 Saw

 Swan Dive

 One Leg kick

 Double Leg kick

 Neck Pull

 Scissors and Bicycle

 Shoulder Bridge

 Spine Twist

 Jack Knife

 Side Kick

 Teaser

 Hip Twist

 Swimming

 Leg Pulls front and back

 Kneeling Side Kick

 Side Bend

 Boomerang

 Seal and Crab

 Rocking

 Control Balance

Push Up

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