In April of 2012, the Mayo Clinic made the following report on a study they did in which fifteen breast cancer survivors participated in a twelve week Pilates program. The study reported that:
statistically significant improvements emerged for shoulder abduction and internal rotation on the affected side, neck rotation toward the unaffected side, and neck flexion. The affected side arm volume and the interlimb volume discrepancy increased. Significant improvements were reported in quality of life, mood, and body image.
This is an exciting report because though Pilates has been helping women recover from breast cancer treatment, mastectomy and otherwise, for a long time, we have lacked some of the high-level scientific documentation that helps fuel further research. The report concluded that "The improvements in physical and psychological outcomes are promising and deserve further evaluation..." Yes indeed!
One person who is no stranger to the benefits of Pilates for breast cancer recovery is Naomi Aaronson, an occupational therapist who specializes in incorporating Pilates breast cancer rehabilitation. Naomi consulted with me extensively on my article, Pilates and Exercise for Breast Cancer Recovery. Along with co-author Ann Marie Turo, an occupational therapist as well as a Pilates and yoga instructor, Naomi developed WOW-Women Onto Wellness™, a program of Pilates for breast cancer recovery.
The Manual for the WOW program outlines a step by step program of Pilates 36 exercises divided into 3 recovery phases to help women regain strength and mobility. There is also a nice section of wellness tips as well as many ideas and resources for making recovery life more comfortable and empowering in general.
When a Pilates friend had a mastectomy recently, I lent my WOW manual to her (which partially accounts for why I'm late telling you about it). She said it was very helpful and that the way the exercises were laid out in a progressive program was especially comforting as she felt more confident about knowing what to do when, and not overdoing.
I'm not sure the WOW manual would be good for women who would be Pilates beginners in recovery as some of the exercise instructions are not quite detailed enough and some of the photos don't take a very causal approach to form. Also, the manual goes back and forth between speaking to the recovering woman and to an instructor -- which might be a little disconcerting. Nevertheless, if you have a little bit of Pilates behind you, I think the WOW manual would be very helpful. I also think Pilates instructors are well advised to look into it.
Learn more about the WOW manual