If you’ve had surgery or suffered a major injury to your ACL, you’ve likely felt immobile as you worked through the recovery process. Your ACL works as a rotational stabilizer for the knee. When you make quick turns or sharp movements, it keeps your knee as stable as possible. Objectives during ACL rehabilitation are to make sure you can fully move your knee through every range of motion. Pilates comes into play as a solution that furthers your ACL recovery. One major component of ACL treatment is to rebuild strength in the muscles that surround your hips and thighs such as your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Pilates doesn’t put too much stress directly on your injured knee but gives you all the tools to increase strength and flexibility.
Reforming The Knee
Pilates has different exercise options available depending on how much weight you can put on you knee. Working on a reformer, as opposed to a mat or chair, can help you begin doing Pilates moves much earlier. A reformer is a piece of equipment used in Pilates which looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, and resistance bands. If you’ve had ACL surgery, it allows you to stay horizontal and have lighter resistance on your injured knee as equipment guides you to strengthen the muscles around your knee joint. Common movements on the reformer involve footwork and side-lying movements for your injured knee. You’ll begin correcting any muscles that aren’t aligned in your lower body, which will help your knee recover by keeping it stable as you start walking.
Stabilize Your Knee Joint
Once you start being able to bear more weight on your knee, you have the option of doing some Pilates mat work. Since you’re able to move around a bit easier, you’ll work on continuing to increase the range of motion of your knee that may have started on the reformer. Better alignment throughout your spine and pelvis is key. Instead of just focusing on strengthening your injured knee, you’ll be increasing flexibility around your back, core, and hips as well. Without alignment in those areas, you’ll be putting too much force on your injured knee. All pilates exercises are designed to have built-in postural awareness to improve spinal alignment. You might be able to do an exercise like The Saw to not only stretch the hamstrings but also your abdominals and the muscles of your back. These all work together to promote a more stable knee joint.
• Sit up straight on your bottom
• Extend your legs in front of you, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart
• Stretch your arms out to the side, palms facing forward
• Inhale and twist to the right, keeping your abdominals and hips steady
• Reach the pinky finger of your front hand across the outside of the opposite foot
• Touch your little toe if you can, but move in that general direction if you can’t
• Once you’ve gone as far as you can, inhale and untwist back to sitting position
• Repeat the same movement on your other side
Retraining your injured knee to have the balance you need after an ACL injury is tricky. That’s why another point of focus is on your hips. A move like Swimming builds a lot of much needed strength in your core, glutes, and hamstrings. That way, you’ll be more balanced and put less pressure on your healing ACL.
• Lay on your stomach with your legs together in parallel
• Keep your arms stretched straight overhead and the tip of the nose to the mat
• Pull in your abdominals so you lift your belly away from the floor
• At the same time, keep your tailbone moving down towards the mat
• Reach out and extend your arms and legs in opposite directions
• Focus on getting length in your spine so your head moves up off the mat
• Continue to reach your arms and legs out as you alternate sides
• Pump them up and down in small pulses
After ACL surgery, what you need from your body is better strength and balance. Using Pilates to develop strength in your back, core, and hips will give your body the alignment it needs. That way, you’ll develop your body’s sense of balance which was thrown off after your ACL injury. You’ll be able to use Pilates to focus on specific weaknesses and retrain imbalanced muscles that may have contributed to your injury. Having musculoskeletal issues in your body will delay recovery and continue to strain your knee. Pilates allows you to maintain control, balance, and coordination in your healing knee. Talk to your physical therapist to see if Pilates is an activity you can do to complement your ACL rehabilitation.