Can You Do Pilates When You Have a Pulled Intercostal Muscle?

You may want to take time off from Pilates with a pulled intercostal.
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You love Pilates because it's a great workout that you can do just about anywhere. It was created by Joseph Pilates to overcome his own physical challenges, and restore his health. Pilates can strengthen your body while also making it more flexible. Breathing is an essential component of Pilates, and a pulled intercostal muscle may make that very challenging, or even painful.

The Space Between and Around

    The intercostal muscles are a group of muscles that run along the ribs and aid in breathing. There are three layers: external, internal and innermost internal intercostals. The external intercostals are responsible for quiet and forced inhalation. They raise the ribs and help expand the chest cavity so you can breathe in. The two internal layers do the opposite job of quiet and forced exhalation. They depress the ribs and shrink the chest cavity space. When an intercostal is pulled, or strained, it is painful to breathe, and exercise can be out of the question.

Pilates Control

    In Pilates you have to be able to control your breathing. In every exercise your core is stabilized and the muscles of your ribcage and abs are responsible for this. The voluntarily-controlled breathing pattern used in Pilates is thought to provide health benefits or enhance physical performance, according to Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger in their book "Pilates Anatomy". One method of breathing in particular would be severely affected by a pulled intercostal. Lateral, or intercostal, breathing is the method that focuses on lateral expansion of the ribcage. You will not be able to effectively do this, and in fact may further stress your body.

Three Biggies Affected

    Three common Pilates exercises that are often used in classes, according to Core Pilates NYC, are the Rollup, the Hundred and the One-Leg Circle. The Rollup is similar to a full sit-up but done with your legs straight and in complete control. You slowly exhale and roll up all the way until you are folded over your legs. You then inhale and roll back down. The Hundred is performed lying down with your legs straight, and angled up at about 45 degrees off the floor. Your head and shoulders are lifted and your arms count out 100 beats in a small tapping pattern. You breathe in five beats and out five beats for a total of 10 times each before relaxing. The One-Leg Circle requires you to hold your core completely steady as you move your leg in a circle while lying on the floor. All of these exercises require you to control your breathing, and contract your abs and ribcage. Doing them would be extremely painful with a pulled intercostal muscle.

How Long You're Out

    The severity of your intercostal pull is going to dictate how long you have to rest from Pilates, and other activities. Healing can take up to six weeks or more. Rest and activity modification are your first steps. Don't do anything that increases your pain. Your doctor may prescribe a medication for inflammation and pain, or recommend an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-nflammatory drug. Ice may also be applied for inflammation, especially in the early stages. It is just going to take time, and each day you will get a little better.

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