Open-heart surgery is a general term for surgical procedures performed to treat heart problems by directly accessing the heart through opening the chest. During open-heart surgery, the surgeon will cut through the breastbone (sternotomy) and spread the ribs to access the heart.
Open-heart surgery is a life-saving procedure. But it is also a major surgery. Recovery can be long. When possible, you should take steps to improve your health — like exercising, losing weight and quitting smoking — before surgery.
Initial Healing process:
The process of healing begins right after surgery with a medically supervised Cardiac rehab program while in the hospital.
This might involve initially just sitting up in bed, standing and testing your range of motion, before moving to short walks around the hospital wing.
4 weeks or so after you come home from the hospital you can begin PT in an outpatient setting. Your cardiac rehab exercise sessions will usually include cardiovascular exercise and, depending on your physical condition, you may also be advised to include some resistance training.
Your body and mind have been through a lot with this surgery. Your emotions also can be affected. Breathing is going to be an important “exercise” to start immediately after surgery.
Everything has to be done in a slow mindful manner
After about 4 to 6 months, you may be ready to return to physical activity and start a Pilates program.
Authentic Pilates is a great method for further recuperation and building the body back to its former strength, or even greater, because it works the whole body and mind together. Pilates is known as a core conditioning method, and that is certainly true, but the magic of authentic pilates lies in its ability to transform the body- any body at any level of health and fitness- to a well functioning, strong and flexible animal. Joe Pilates, the genius behind the method, titled his book “Return to Life” because that is what the authentic method mission is.
It is important to do One-on-one sessions when you start your Pilates program. If you had been practicing Pilates prior to your surgery, you should expect to have a very different session when you return. If you are new to Pilates, you will start working with your teacher, the same as someone who already knows the system, but you will also slowly learn the system as you progress.
The Authentic Pilates method is a hierarchical system of exercises that includes a plethora of exercises for bodies that have compromises and disabilities. It is a creative system that allows the experienced teacher to draw on a deep pool of pedagogic processes, modifications and individualized movements to find the right balance for each student. For an open heart post PT individual, the system will begin with mind/body connection exercises and breath work, move to mobility, then strength, and then overall balancing of the structure. It will take several months to a year to allow the body to rebuild itself in the system with a teacher working one-on-one with you.
When the body passes through a trauma, like a surgery, you will have not only the physical scars and sutures, but emotional and mental changes that will surface in different ways. For this reason, Authentic Pilates is a great system because it accounts for the emotional, mental and physical growth of the person. (At least in the way that I teach it).
You should include your cardio program even while doing Pilates. Keep up your walking in between classes.
What would we do:
At Authentic Method Pilates, we always start our clients with a full evaluation. This will include a discussion, a gentle physical test to see where your body is at, and a review of any records from your surgery or PT. Bringing any images to the evaluation session can help
In the first session we will start moving your body, working the breath, the mind and the muscles and tissues. We will be asking for your feedback often as we add systematic and gentle exercises. Your honest feedback is crucial to the success of your experience
The first exercises will be done in a comfortable position, usually lying on your back. We will work to the edges of your abilities in a calm and gentle manner each session and progress according to what your mind and body can handle. Usually within the first three sessions you will begin to feel changes. Or even after the first session!
And example of a first session at our studio would be:
- Breathing exercises to internally stretch and expand the chest cavity.
- Followed by arm and leg movements while maintaining stillness in the torso to start to wake up the connective tissue and move the bones and muscles without pain.
- Then posterior chain and lateral chain flexibility/mobility movements.
- Then mobility exercises for the upper body with a lot of breathing.
- And lengthening exercises for the whole body.
This continues the waking up process and enhances circulation for healing, it also talks to the body and assures the body that it can move with ease
Then some ”power house” (what we call the lower core), toning and strengthening. We start building strength even at the first session. But we make sure that your body is ready for it.
We would then add some resistance for strength and body control – using the correct level of resistance for your body. These could include the reformer, or the cadillac apparatus or might use elastic bands, balls or the pilates magic circle.
The last part of the class usually involves some standing work that could include balance, strength or postural (or all three) exercises to finish with an uplifted and elevated spirit. We always have fun and you will leave with a smile.
We then add you to our app (Prospire) where we will assign you some homework videos that you can do between your classes. We recommend 2-3 times a week private sessions for best results.
Authentic Method Pilates is a great method for recovery from open heart surgery or any other surgery. It is important to work one on one and to dedicate some time between sessions to do the short homeworks. Keep to the eating plan suggested by your doctor and drink plenty of water. Adding in your walking or other light cardio every day will set you on the path to even better health than you had prior to the surgery.