Physical Therapy + Pilates = Powerful Combo

We thought it would be helpful for prospective clients to hear directly from one of our clients about her experience working with our team. This particular client came to us following multiple abdominal surgeries, with large abdominal scars and months of deconditioning. She came to work with us specifically because we use Pilates as an integral part of the physical therapy treatments we provide. Read on and here about this client’s results!


Physical Therapy + Pilates = Powerful Combo

I have taken classes for five years at Vitality Pilates. From the first time I put my legs into the straps on the reformer, I knew I had found a mindful, helpful, and enjoyable exercise regime that could tone and strengthen my entire body.  Instructors were uniformly knowledgeable about anatomy, verbal cueing, providing input to achieve correct form.  I was in excellent shape. People I met in classes became my friends; one even sold my old house and found me a wonderful new one!  

But, as they say on Project Runway, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.  After many months of on/off digestive complaints and a mild stomach virus, one evening my gut exploded and inflated to twice its size. Alarmed, I rushed to the ER and was diagnosed with diverticulitis.  Untreatable by the usual course of antibiotics after six days in the hospital, I needed open stomach surgery (a long transverse cut) to remove most of the sigmoid colon and install an ostomy bag; I was in the hospital another 1.5 weeks. I then learned the meaning of TPN (IV-only eating to give the digestive tract a rest), how my stomach could be emptied through my nose (the worst part), and how much we take for granted each time we use a bathroom as intended. I was told the procedure could be reversed in a few months once my GI system had time to heal.

The next surgery was five months later.  During that 9-hour procedure, they recut along the original scar line, making a longer incision that went from above my belly button clear down to my horizontal C-section scar from many years ago. The surgeon successfully reversed the ostemy and repaired two hernias, removed my appendix, and closed a wide diastasis (gap) in my abdominal muscles. 

In short, the core muscles that I had taken so much care and pride in developing through Pilates were gone. Completely gone.  As was my general mobility and my ability to go to Pilates classes, which I so enjoyed.  A friend of mine had experienced pain related to a car accident and informed me about Pilates-based physical therapy offered within the walls at my home studio in Ravenna.  I contacted Elizabeth Rogers Pilates & Physical Therapy and was then connected with one of their pelvic health specialists. My pelvic health physical therapist seemed totally unfazed by the abdominal mess I presented to her after both surgeries.   Not only is she very well versed in rehabilitation of the spine, pelvis and the abdominal wall, but she uses a Pilates-based approach in order to help safely restore total body functional movement and alignment.  The combination of physical therapy and Pilates makes for a powerful combination for the body and mind!

When she told me that I would eventually be working on Pilates equipment to regain strength and ability, I was overjoyed.  For my therapy, Kelsea starts with hands-on scar work to reduce the likelihood of adhesions, which I’ve come to understand can become troublesome enough to require surgery of their own. She mobilizes the abdomen, pushing and pulling gently and thoroughly as if “exercising” the scar. We then proceed to equipment-based work.  We focus on balance and building strength, often using a stability ball and performing light resistance exercises for postural endurance and upper body work.  We also emphasize rebuilding abdominal strength and motor control, first with small, precise movements using the Pilates equipment and then building to larger movement patterns. We work from the head all the way down to the toes, using different props and various body positions. The further along in my recovery, the more advanced my exercises get, and the more functional I become. I even get “homework” in the form of hand-drawn reminders of exercises to do at home. She also reports on my progress to the surgeon, so other providers are kept in the loop. In short, I am achieving the best possible outcome thanks to the partnership of Elizabeth Rogers Pilates & Physical Therapy with Vitality Pilates, my stubborn determination to get back to Pilates, my beloved instructors and my good friends in Ravenna!