Parkinson's disease; Multiple sclerosis; Chronic diseases--Treatment; Pilates method


Parkinson’s disease (PD) and multiple sclerosis (MS) result in disruptive physical, cognitive, and sensory complications that progress with time. These symptoms can alter muscle tone and disturb movement, which can negatively impact a person’s ability to complete activities of daily living (ADL) and participation in community activities (Lexell, Iwarrson, & Lexell, 2006; Wressle, Engstand, & Granerus, 2007). Treatment for PD and MS consists mainly of medications and occasionally surgery, (Merck Manual, 2012a; Merck Manual, 2012b) but alternative and supplemental treatments, including exercise, are also being used (National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke [NINDS], 2012; National Multiple Sclerosis Society [NMMS], 2012).

Significant improvements in walking speed and upper extremity endurance were seen in people with MS when they engaged in aerobic exercise (Romberg et al., 2004). A study by O’Brien, Dodd, and Bilney (2008), found that a successful exercise program for PD specifically addressed postural muscles, strength training and breathing exercises. It is suggested that treatment of PD should include the use of medication as well as regular exercise to manage the motor and psychosocial issues of coping with a chronic disease (Ziemssen, 2011). One possible exercise that should be considered is Pilates, which has been found to improve muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, and posture in people without neurological conditions (Kloubec, 2010).

The Pilates method can be adapted for individuals, thus allowing compensation for restrictions in movement (Owsley, 2005). It is able to meet the needs of diverse populations because the specialized equipment has features that allow an exercise routine to be adapted to individual body types. However, there is a lack of knowledge in the Pilates community about PILATES FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS 5 biomechanics and the basics of functional fitness (Monroe, 2010). Therefore, the motor, cognitive or sensory disturbances associated with PD or MS is outside the basic knowledge required to become a certified Pilates instructor. This project addresses an unmet need by giving Pilates instructors the knowledge and skills to provide an accessible service that addresses some of the health and wellness needs of people with PD or MS.

First Advisor

Tatiana Kaminsky, PhD., OTR/L

Date of Completion

Spring 2013

Degree Type







Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

Date of Award



Occupational Therapy


University of Puget Sound