Moving Through Injury to Recovery

Having an accident is traumatic, especially when it results in a period of immobility and/or surgery. After experiencing lower limb trauma, Pilates teacher Julie Driver shares her story to help others navigate practicing and teaching Pilates with injury.

In August 2021, I had an accident that shattered my left calcaneus (heel bone). Following surgery to reconstruct the bone, I am the proud owner of a titanium plate and more than 11 pins.

For the first six weeks, I was not allowed to remove the air boot, also known as an air cast, which is a short boot that protects the injured foot or ankle while allowing movements such as walking. The only exceptions were during dressing changes and showering. I had to eat, live, and sleep in the air boot to keep my ankle joint at 90 degrees to prevent a “dropped foot,” or difficulty lifting the forefoot.

I am fortunate that my Pilates studio is in my home. Every day, I could perform some Mat work and apparatus Pilates. After six weeks, when I felt more confident moving around in the air boot, I resumed my online Zoom classes from London with Blossom Leilani Crawford, a Pilates instructor based in Brooklyn, New York.

This is the beauty of the Pilates studio: We have the ability to work around any injuries and keep the rest of the body nourished and moving well. Whether you have a sprained ankle or had a recent surgery, you can still incorporate Pilates practice into your routine.

Tips for the Pilates Practitioner

With an injury, much of your focus and energy goes on the injury itself and your healing. Having a Pilates session during this time gives you the space to focus on keeping the your body moving well and reducing the impact of the injury on the rest of your body.

We suggest discussing any concerns with your teacher regarding returning to the studio. That way, you can ensure that your session is safe and designed to help you move and feel better around your injury.

Tips for the Pilates Teacher

If you do not feel comfortable working with an injured client, we recommend referring your client to another instructor. This practice does not reflect on your teaching, but rather shows that you are putting your client's well-being first. They will thank you for your honesty.

Building Trust and Overcoming Fear of Movement

You and your client can work together as a team to ensure that the session is both safe and satisfying. Your client may feel apprehensive about moving in a studio and potentially causing further injury. Reassure them that there will be movements they can do to offset the impact of their crutches, air boot, and other side effects of their injury.

If there has been a surgical procedure and a period of bed rest, your client may have lost strength and muscle mass. They may need to move at a different pace or even forgo classes for a while. If they need modifications, it may slow the class down for the rest of the group. Consider scheduling one-on-one private sessions with your client before they return to the class setting.

Safety is the Priority

Both you and your client must feel safe in your studio. If your client is on crutches, is she ready to be in a busy studio environment? You may need to schedule her during times when the studio is less crowded.

Take note of the injury and what phase they are in recovery. For instance, with a lower limb injury, there are usually multiple healing stages:

  • Completely non-weight bearing: While the breaks begin to mend. This is often accompanied by a period where the limb needs to be constantly elevated.
  • Partial weight bearing: Only lightly touching the toes/foot to the floor while on crutches.
  • Complete weight bearing: Returning to normal movement and activities.

Working around the Injury

As the teacher, you need to be aware of the client’s injury, how it is being treated, and your client's current abilities. If possible, work with your client's doctor or physical therapist to ensure you fully understand any contraindications or limitations.

In my early sessions with Crawford after my accident, we worked around my injury and at no point did I remove the boot. This is the beauty of the Pilates method: you can provide your client a full session without compromising injury.

“Think of working with your injured client as a two-way street. Be mindful of the new rules the injury brings up, such as no single leg work, or they can’t raise their arms above their head, or as in Julie’s case, she could not stand on her leg,” says Crawford. “The Pilates method has so many movement possibilities and equipment. It is an opportunity to stretch your mind when figuring out how to help people move better.”

In addition to the physical benefits of moving my body, my Pilates sessions are important for my mind and mood. As someone who is used to an active lifestyle, having to adjust to a period of enforced rest due to my injury was very difficult.

Having a dedicated time to move feels freeing for my body and mind. Your clients, even those who are working with injuries and limitations, may feel the same. After all, everyone deserves the chance to experience the joy of movement.

Have you practiced or taught Pilates while recovering from an injury? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

Julie Driver
About the Author

Julie Driver

Julie Driver is a Pilates educator based in London. She works with clients of all ages and fitness levels, ranging from sports professionals and performing artists to desk-bound professionals and clients looking to improve their general fitness. She was the winner of our 2014 Next Pilates Anytime Instructor competition, and many of her classes can be found on the site. For more information, visit


Thanks to zoom classes with the amazing Lisa Jackson (Brisbane, Australia)I am vastly improved following a riding accident that left me with fractured left hip (pinned) and left clavicle (plated). An added complication is osteoporosis, hypermobility and a totally ruptured Gluteus Medius tendon. Working on my deep hip muscles has improved my balance and strength. Still some way to go but everyday I am grateful for the benefits of working with the Pilates Method! A plus of Covid -  Pilates instructors are  giving amazing lessons over Zoom! Christine Green (Orange, NSW).
Martha T
Really insightful! Thank You!

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