Pilates is not only a popular form of exercise but also a viable complementary therapy for many people.  This intriguing system of exercise (also called the “Pilates method”) was first developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, a physical trainer.  It was originally meant as a method for rehabilitating injured dancers and athletes.

What Does Pilates Involve?

Pilates includes around 500 exercises, all of which work the entire body.  The exercises were inspired by fields as varied as yoga, calisthenics, and ballet.  Pilates is known for its ability to boost body awareness, balance, strength, and flexibility.  It is able to improve postural and muscular strength.  As imbalances in the body’s structural and muscular systems can lead to problems with movement and chronic pain, Pilates can be extremely helpful in improving quality of life.

Pilates tends to be an especially good choice for people looking for a low-impact exercise program.  However, Pilates can be both non-aerobic and aerobic.  One of the best features of Pilates is its ability to be highly individualized.  Each person and his or her instructor creates a unique fitness plan.

Pilates is usually done in sessions of 45 to 90 minutes, and works to stretch and lengthen the body’s major muscle groups.  There are a few different ways in which Pilates can be done, including using a Studio Pilates machine (an apparatus that uses springs) or just on a mat (possibly using small equipment items).

Health Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is believed to have many health benefits.  Some of these include:

  • Relaxation and stress management
  • Improvements in flexibility
  • Improvements in body awareness
  • Enhanced tone and strength of muscles, especially in core muscle areas like buttocks, hips, lower back, and abdominal muscles.
  • Strengthened concentration
  • Improved balance of each side of the body’s muscle strength
  • Improved circulation and lung capacity, as a result of required deep breathing
  • Improvement in the muscular control of the limbs and back
  • Prevention of injuries to the musculoskeletal system of the body
  • Improvement in spine stabilization
  • Joint and spine injury rehabilitation
  • Improvement in posture
  • Relaxation of areas like the upper back, neck, and shoulders
  • Enhanced balance and physical coordination

Finding a Pilates Instructor

It’s important that you try to find a Pilates instructor that is a member of the Pilates Foundation.  Teachers who have this qualification have extensive training that means they can be included on the UK register of NHSTA Complementary Health Practitioners.

Pilates and Medical Conditions

It is especially crucial to consult with your doctor before undertaking a Pilates program if you:

  • Are obese
  • Have not exercised for an extended period of time
  • Have recently had surgery
  • Have disorders or existing injuries to the musculoskeletal system
  • Have heart disease or another medical condition
  • Are over 40 years old
  • Are preganant

People with diabetes who want to try Pilates sometimes need to make changes in their treatment plans.  This must be done in close consultation with your doctor, who should supervise your progress.  It is because the muscle mass that Pilates will lead to will mean that your body more efficiently processes glucose.  You will need to inform your Pilates instructor if you have complications of diabetes, like diabetic retinopathy.

Many people who have arthritis find that engaging in Pilates is helpful, because it is a strength-training program.  Pilates can help to improve and maintain joint flexibility, maintain balance, and manage symptoms, and assist you in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Your doctor will need to approve of your Pilates program first if you have recently had a knee or back injury.  Pilates may help prevent injuries to the knees by strengthening the quadriceps (thigh muscles).  Pilates might be helpful if you have chronic lower back pain.  Make sure to consult with your doctor first.

Try to find a Pilates instructor who has experience working with people who have your specific health concerns.  For example, if you have lower back pain, look for an instructor who has experience working with people who have that problem.




“Pilates and yoga — health benefits”, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits

“Pilates”, Together Against Cancer, http://togetheragainstcancer.org.uk/pilates

“Pilates: What it Is, How It Works, and More”, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/what-is-pilates



Osteopathy is an increasingly popular and widely used form of complementary therapy.  Many people receive osteopathic therapy concurrently with conventional medical treatment.  This can be especially helpful for those who have specific conditions, especially ones directly related to the joints, bones, and muscles (the musculoskeletal system).

Qualified practitioners in osteopathy are called osteopaths, and must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOC).  This will ensure that they are properly trained and fully qualified.  The GOC also requires osteopaths to be insured and to comply with specific standards of practice.

The practice of osteopathy is based on one fundamental principle: that the proper functioning of the ligaments, muscles, connective tissue, and bones are essential to a person’s overall well-being and health .  An osteopath will manipulate your muscles and bones in carrying out your treatment.  The massaging, stretching, and moving of bones and muscles is the osteopath’s way not only of treating problems but also detecting and preventing them.

Some of the osteopath’s aims are to:

  • Promote healing in the body
  • Increase the volume of blood supply to the tissues, and generally improve circulation
  • Alleviate muscle tension
  • Increase joint mobility
  • Restoration of movement
  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Pain relief

Among the techniques used by osteopaths are:

  • High velocity thrusts (short sharp movements). These may be advised against by your doctor if you have certain medical conditions.
  • Massage
  • Manipulation of the muscles
  • Stretching of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles

Conditions Treated by Osteopaths

Below are some of the conditions that are commonly treated by osteopaths:

  • Sports injuries
  • Lower back pain
  • Issues with the legs, hips, and pelvis
  • Arthritis
  • Posture problems caused by pregnancy, or activities like work or driving
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain

While it is true that there are osteopaths that imply that their treatments can address conditions that are not directly related to the musculoskeletal system (such as, for example, depression, digestive disorders, and headaches), there is a lack of evidence that this claim is a valid one.

One of the problems for which osteopathy is an especially effective treatment is lower back pain.  It tends to be so useful that osteopathy is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for lower back pain.

It is possible that osteopathy will be somewhat helpful if you have problems such as pain in the lower limbs, shoulders, or neck.

Osteopathy and Cancer Patients

You should be aware that evidence that osteopathy could help with cancer simply does not exist.  However, many cancer patients find that osteopathy treatments are useful with regard to tension and pain.  They also create a stronger sense of well-being.  It is essential that you consult with your doctor before considering osteopathy, however.  He or she might advise against it if you have certain kinds of cancer or other conditions.

Situations In Which Osteopathy is Advised Against

If you have any of the below conditions, your doctor will have to take extra time to evaluate whether osteopathy is right for you.  In some cases, he or she will conclude that it could cause adverse effects or even be dangerous.

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Bone cancer
  • Any type of cancer that involves the bone marrow such as lymphoma, myeloma, and leukaemia
  • Bleeding disorders (for example, haemophilia)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infections
  • Fractured or broken bones
  • Arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases

Other situations in which you’ll probably be advised to stay away from osteopathic treatment include:

  • If you’re pregnant, especially between 8 and 12 weeks
  • If you are on a medication that thins the blood (anticoagulants)
  • If you’re undergoing radiotherapy
  • If you’re having a course of chemotherapy


“Osteopathy”, NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Osteopathy/Pages/Introduction.aspx

“Osteopathy”, Cancer Research UK, http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/osteopathy


Medical (or Western) Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been practiced in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.  Much more recently, the procedure has become quite popular in conventional Western medicine.

What is Medical or Western Acupuncture?

Western medical acupuncture (WMA) is an adaptation of traditional Chinese acupuncture.  It draws on principles of evidence-based medicine as well as knowledge of pathology, physiology, and anatomy.  When acupuncture is practiced by Western doctors, some of the concepts important in traditional Chinese acupuncture are not used.  These include, for example, the circulation of qi and Yin/Yang.

Western medical practitioners of acupuncture still have not reached any kind of consensus as to how and why it works.  There are several different theories of why acupuncture is effective.  One is that acupuncture might cause the body to release natural painkillers, including endorphins.  A second is referred to as “gate control theory”.  This theory argues that the practice of acupuncture is able to spur on the activity of peripheral nerves that can close the “gate” that is able to block pain signals trying to make their way along the spinal cord.  A third theory is that part (but certainly not all) of acupuncture’s efficacy is attributable to the patient’s belief in its ability to help (in other words, that it may exert a placebo effect).  Generally speaking, Western practitioners believe that acupuncture functions by stimulation of the nervous system.

Western medical research has established that acupuncture is especially effective in treating problems such as vomiting and nausea that occurs after operations and chemotherapy treatments.  There is also a great level of consensus that other problems acupuncture can help with are fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, menstrual cramps, and dental pain (especially postoperative).  Acupuncture is often used to address various kinds of musculoskeletal pain.

Medical acupuncture is most often practiced by conventional doctors (very often primary care providers).  It is essential that the practitioner use special metallic needles that are hair-thin and solid, and that the needles be properly sterilized before use.  The needles are activated by either the practitioner’s specific hand movements or electrical stimulation.  When done correctly, acupuncture causes only minimal discomfort or pain.  Feelings of pressure are very common.  Sometimes the needles are heated.  Many patients feel that acupuncture has an energising or relaxing effect.

Conditions and Illnesses

Studies conducted by the National institute of Health (NIH) have demonstrated that acupuncture can be effective for patients suffering from:

  • Asthma
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lower back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tennis elbow
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headaches
  • Addiction
  • Dental pain after surgery
  • Nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer or surgical anaesthesia

It is essential that you thoroughly discuss acupuncture with medical professionals before you consider undergoing the procedure.  You should be aware that acupuncture can be problematic for some people.  Examples are patients with implants (like breast implants), women who are pregnant, patients who have a pacemaker, and people with chronic skin problems.  Acupuncture can be dangerous for patients taking anticoagulants, and especially for people who have haemophilia or another bleeding disorder.

Johns Hopkins Medicine sets out additional information to keep in mind with regard to acupuncture:

  • Remember that a practitioner of acupuncture who is not a doctor cannot give a diagnosis.
  • Make sure that the person doing your acupuncture has proper certification and experience.
  • Spend time finding out the costs involved in acupuncture treatment and how much you may be required to pay.

In the UK, acupuncture can be accessed in a large number of NHS general practices.  It is also available in many hospices and pain clinics.  Most patients obtaining acupuncture pay for their treatment.  NHS coverage of acupuncture is limited, but it is sometimes available.


“Western medical acupuncture: A definition”, http://aim.bmj.com/content/27/1/33

“How Acupuncture Works from the Perspective of Western Medicine”, http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189570,00.html\

“Acupuncture”, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/complementary_and_alternative_medicine/acupuncture_85,P00171

“Acupuncture”, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Acupuncture/Pages/Introduction.aspx

The Benefits of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

One of the fastest non-invasive ways to treat musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is instrumental assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). The technique is similar to a traditional Chinese medical treatment Gua Sha. Meanwhile, ancient Greeks and Romans used a small metal instrument called “strigil” for therapy in bathhouses. The combination of these two practices gave birth to the modern IASTM.

IASTM therapist uses a special metal instrument to scrape the skin slightly. Such scraping improves blood flow and treats chronic inflammation, degeneration, muscular imbalance, and more.

How Does IASTM Work?

IASTM has proven useful for chronic injuries as well as other MSDs. In many cases, injuries heal by creating a pattern of fibers that result in scars or adhesions. They can limit the motion and cause pain and discomfort.

The metal instrument used by IASTM specialists scrapes the affected area and allows the therapist to feel the bumps to identify the problem area. The instrument stimulates blood flow and a healing response from the organism, which produces fibroblasts (cells that assist in wound healing by synthesizing collagen and elastin). The instrument can also break up the scar tissue.

Who Can Benefit from IASTM?

People with motion limitations, chronic injury pain, sports injuries, pain during motion, and muscle recruitment problems can benefit from the instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. It’s used for a variety of conditions, including:

  • Capral Tunnel Syndrome
  • Post-surgical and trauma-related scars
  • Tendinitis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Musculoskeletal imbalances
  • Chronic joint swelling/pain caused by strains/sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Back and neck pain
  • Trigger finger
  • Acute ankle sprains
  • And more

People suffering from chronic pain and discomfort usually benefit from IASTM the most. This is an especially useful technique for patients who don’t respond to standard physical therapy. Patients with chronic back, neck, and hip pain, stemming from injuries and accidents, respond well to IASTM. IASTM can be used separately or combined with other treatments for MSDs.

What to Expect From IASTM Session

Each IASTM session is rather short. It doesn’t last more than several minutes. The therapist glides the metal instrument over the skin surface slightly pressing to get a response from your body.

The procedure may be slightly uncomfortable. The skin usually reddens and warms up. Mild bruising may occur. However, there have been no cases of intolerance.


Contraindications of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

While the technique seems harmless, you should learn several contraindications before taking advantage of IASTM. People with serious bruises due to recent trauma, skin infections and rashes, open wounds, unhealed fractures, burn scars, and varicose veins should avoid the therapy. Other contraindications are:

  • Osteomyelitis
  • Myositis Ossificans
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Use of anticoagulants


IASTM can become a beneficial choice of therapy for people suffering from various types of MSDs. Even if you don’t think you have any contraindications to this procedure, please consult your doctor before making an appointment.



The Pros and Cons of Kinesio Taping

Many patients with MSDs turn to the Kenisio (Kinesiology) taping method. This quick and painless complementary therapy is popular among people with a wide variety of sports and musculoskeletal injuries. The tape stimulates the organism’s natural healing process and provides extra support for the muscles and joints without hindering the range of motion. The tape can also alleviate pain and stimulate lymphatic drainage.

How Does Kinesio Taping Work?

When the tape is applied, it gently lifts the skin due to its elasticity. It makes small wrinkles on the skin surface, which in turn creates tiny spaces between the skin and the tissues inside, in which the areas of negative and positive pressure alternate.

Negative pressure areas stimulate the opening of lymphatic vessels and allow the excess fluid drainage, which reduces the pressure on pain receptors. As a result, the pain is alleviated. Meanwhile, the blood flow improves and delivers the much-needed nutrients to the injured tissue to promote quicker healing.

The tapes come in various shapes and sizes. The therapist determines which Kinesio tape works the best for a particular case. It’s not recommended to apply the Kinesio tape without professional assistance.

Who Should Use Kinesio Tape?

People with MSDs and sports injuries can benefit from the Kinesio tape the most.

  1. Athlete Rehabilitation

While Kinesio tape doesn’t work wonders for healing sports injuries, it can be a great complement to manual manipulation therapies. The tape stabilizes the affected area and allows the muscles and ligaments to rebuild and strengthen by reducing the pressure on the areas, where manual manipulations were applied.

  1. Alignment

Kinesio taping can assist you with alignment. Aligning the back or other body parts in a correct way can decrease the pain caused by an injury and allow the joints to recover after physical stress.

  1. Pain Alleviation

Acute or chronic pain associated with MSDs and injuries can be alleviated by correctly applied Kinesio tape. Kinesio tape is used on the affected area (different taping styles are used for different areas) to reduce pain and discomfort.

  1. Bruise Reduction

Bruising is a common injury companion. Kinesio tape works well on bruised areas by draining the fluids from the lymphatic ducts. If used correctly, kinesiology tape can reduce bruising in a very short period.

  1. Athletic Training

Kinesio tape can be applied before exercising or a sports competition. Athletes who have trouble with rolling ankles and patellar tracking tissue can use the tape as a preventive measure.

Does It Help?

While there haven’t been any extensive studies done to confirm the effectiveness of Kinesio tape, many patients with MSDs and athletes give positive reviews to this method. The lack of research doesn’t make the Kinesio tape any less effective.

Kinesio Tape Contraindications

You shouldn’t use kinesiology tape if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Kidney problems
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Skin infections/rashes
  • Cancer

Please consult your doctor before turning to the Kinesio taping method. Kinesiology tape should be applied by a professional.

The Gyrotonic Exercise System for MSD Sufferers

The Gyrotonic exercise system is specifically created to reduce stress to the joints, improve posture, and stimulate better coordination. This system allows your body to move smoothly and naturally without jarring or compression. Such exercises can become an integral part of physical therapy for the patients with MSDs (Musculoskeletal disorders).

What is Gyrotonics?

Gyrotonics is a system that includes elements of yoga, dance, gymnastics, tai chi, and swimming. The main difference between these practices and Gyrotonics is a specially designed wooden machine with a set of rotational discs and pulleys with weights.

The Gyrotonic machine facilitates the patient’s movements that make exercising easier and more enjoyable. This system can be a great choice for people suffering from muscle strains and sports injuries. Gyrotonics also includes a breathing technique similar to yoga. Each movement is accompanied by specific breathing.

In order to understand the benefits of the system and start seeing the results, you should do the exercises on a regular basis at least once a week. The first results can be seen after about 5 – 7 sessions.

The system combines relaxation and tension by allowing you to relax your mind while developing new physical skills. It’s often hard to master in a short amount of time. Gyrotonics helps exercise the joints, stimulate acupuncture points, strengthen muscles, and improve health.

What Are The Benefits of Gyrotonics?

While Gyrotonics is useful for everyone, people with MSDs can take advantage of the following benefits:

  1. Stretching and strengthening of the muscles
  2. Improved posture
  3. Tension relief in the whole body
  4. Improved muscle and joint flexibility
  5. Improved range of motion
  6. Increased body strength
  7. Improved coordination
  8. Improved balance and stability
  9. Articulated spine
  10. Reduced joint stress
  11. Injury prevention
  12. Rehabilitation

Why Use Gyrotonics for MSDs

People who are suffering from muscle and joint pain, chronic injuries or recovering from a recent injury can benefit from this physical therapy system. All exercises in the Gyrotonic system begin at the spine, which is connected to the rest of the body’s system.

Regular Gyrotonic exercise may reduce muscle tension and alleviate chronic pain for patients suffering from MSDs. This exercise system can deal with the following problems:

  • Intervertebral disc problems as well as other back conditions
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Muscular imbalance
  • Meniscus and ligament injuries
  • Muscle tension

Besides easing tension, relieving pain, and reducing stress, Gyrotonics can improve the overall health condition and strengthen your body to avoid further MSDs. It’s a perfect preventive measure for people prone to such disorders.

The Disadvantages of Gyrotonics

Even though Gyrotonics seem to be one of the most useful alternative therapies for patients with MSDs, there are a few disadvantages.

  • The Gyrotonics classes are pricey. They may cost 1.5 times as much as yoga and Pilates classes
  • Gyrotonics is not common. Experienced Gyrotonics coaches are hard to find.
  • The Gyrotonic exercise system is usually taught on an individual basis, so there are no group classes.
  • Gyrotonic exercises may be hard to learn. The system requires commitment and patience.

Even though the Gyrotonic exercise system doesn’t have any substantial side effects, please, consult your doctor before signing up for a class. .