Parallel Historical Influences
If we go back to the history of physical therapy we see that the treatment has been in existence since the ancient period, and like Joe Pilates, they claim its origin with the Greeks. Joe emulated the symmetrically developed body of the ideal Greeks and like the physical therapists, included massage and water therapy as a treatment for health.
In late nineteenth century gymnastics for the evolution of the body and mind,dominated Europe, and with it, sports injuries. In fact, the Swedish word for physical therapist is “sjukgymnast” or “sick gymnast.” Joe Pilates was trained as a young boy in school in German gymnastics.
Two other major landmarks would form the foundation of both Pilates and physical therapy.
The first was the Great World War. Joe Pilates while touring England performing in a circus, was interred as an alien enemy by the British isolated on the Isle of Man with 27,000 other civilian German, Turkish and Austrian prisoners. There he worked as an orderly in the compound’s hospital hut,serving the sick and old internees suffering from tuberculosis, venereal disease, mental illnesses, heart troubles, and broken limbs from the men slipping and falling in the mud and constant rain.
In World War One, the first physical therapists were nurses called Reconstruction Aids, who aided the military personnel who had been wounded, incorporating massage, and other modalities to help them.
The other historical event was the polio epidemic,bringing out even further, the need for mechanical aids, such as wheelchairs, and movement exercises to prevent further apathy and imbalances.
By the time Joe Pilates emigrated to America in 1925, the American Physical Therapy Association was already formed and promoted as a treatment for polio. Treatment up through the 1940’s primarily consisted of exercise, massage, and traction.
Pilates would continue to invent and patent apparatus to correct structural imbalances and work as a one-man genius while the entire physical therapy industry evolved into a separate, medical profession.
Both methods would keep at their forefront an outlook of the mind staying positive during its healing foray through pain and fear and crisis.
Both have similar goals-but the approach is different. Seventy years later their paths would merge.
Physical therapists: Minimum educational requirement in a Masters, and most programs offer a Doctor of Phyical Therapy Degree(DPT)
Pilates teachers: 12-600 hours of unstandardized training
Physical therapists: Require a license in individual states
Pilates teachers: No license required.
Physical therapists: Works individual isolated body part, like a shoulder or knee, while the rest of the body is inert
Pilates teachers: Works the whole body and stays off of the injured part
Physical Therapists: Sets goals in degrees” We need to get the leg to 90 degrees” or
“You have a 15 degree rotation.”
Pilates Teachers: Works full movement
Physical Therapists: Works high repetitions in sets to muscle fatigue
Pilates Teachers: Low repetitions to avoid muscle fatigue
Physical Therapists: Specialize in anatomy and physiology
Pilates Teachers: Specialize in movement and Pilates equipment
Physical Therapists: Part of the medical world, covered by insurance varying by state
Pilates Teachers: Part of the exercise world and paid for by the passionate
Physical Therapists: Use other modalities such as ice, massage, ultra sound, electricity,
And trained to read Cat Scans, MRI’s, X-rays, Blood work
Pilates Teachers: Sometimes trained in dance,yoga,massage,martial arts
Physical Therapists: Movement is passive, they guide you
Pilates Teachers: Movement is active.
Physical Therapists: Trained in pain techniques and working through and beyond it
Pilates Teachers: Pain means “STOP!”
Physical Therapists: Short term while the injury is all consuming, Visits are 2-3 times a week, prescribed by a physician
Pilates Teachers: 3 times a week for ten weeks and then a long time, a lifetime of physical practice.
Physical Therapists: Have patients
Pilates Teachers: Have clients
Physical Therapists: Use anatomical terms, like ‘Depress your scapula’
Pilates Teachers: Use imagery like ‘Drop your wing’
Physical Therapists: Have a limited Pilates vocabulary, maybe twenty exercises
Pilates Teachers: A large, workable repertoire of 500 exercises
Physical Therapists: Pilates is one of their tools
Pilates Teachers: Pilates is their tool
Physical Therapists: Have a legal framework of conduct, a practice guided by core values, such as confidentiality, conflicts of interest, no sexual relations with patients, and services are not continued just to further the self-interest of the business
Pilates Teachers: General ethics and achievement of professional competence often times questionable, such as the best interest of the student at heart, in finances, or staying late if the client is late.