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What To Do When a Client Says, "It Hurts" During a Pilates Exercise

But it hurts!

Hello fellow Pilates teachers,

We've all been there: we're guiding a client through a sequence, ensuring their form is impeccable, and then we hear those two little words—"it hurts." While the immediate impulse is to halt the exercise, it's crucial to dig a little deeper to understand what's really going on.

Assess the Situation Firstly, it's essential to differentiate between 'good pain' and 'bad pain.' Good pain might be the result of muscle fatigue or the natural strain from an unfamiliar exercise. Bad pain is an indicator that something is not right, usually a sharp or severe discomfort that might suggest an injury or problem area.

Questions to Ask:

  1. Where does it hurt? Knowing the location of the pain can be telling. Is it in the muscles being targeted by the exercise, or somewhere else?

  2. What kind of pain is it? Sharp, tingling, or a dull ache? Each type of pain could signify different things.

  3. When did you start feeling this? Was it sudden or gradual? Did it start after a specific movement?

Adapt and Modify Based on your assessment, you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. If the pain is muscle fatigue or similar, a simple adjustment or modification might be sufficient.

Possible Actions:

  1. Correct the form: Sometimes the pain is due to incorrect form or posture. Make the necessary adjustments and check if the pain subsides.

  2. Modify the exercise: Choose a less strenuous version of the exercise that still targets the same muscle group.

  3. Change the exercise: Swap out the problematic exercise for another that achieves similar goals without causing discomfort.

When to Stop If the client is experiencing sharp pain, discomfort in joints, or any pain that radiates or increases with movement, it's prudent to stop the exercise immediately. Suggest they consult a healthcare professional before returning to their Pilates programme.


  1. Follow-Up: Always check with the client after the session to see how they're feeling. This shows professionalism and care for their wellbeing.

  2. Record Keeping: Make a note of the incident. This is not just good practice but also essential for monitoring recurring issues.

Final Thoughts It's crucial to remind clients that while Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, it's not entirely devoid of discomfort, especially when building strength and flexibility. The key is to be attuned to their experience and adapt as necessary, while ensuring that safety and wellbeing are never compromised. Stay observant and stay professional. Best regards, Michael


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