Is Pilates good for lower back pain?
Pilates can be a great way to banish aching backs
Please note, this article only intends to give advice from the perspective of a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor. Although advice and exercises given below may help in a number of cases it is not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional or provide solutions to all kinds of back pain. If you are concerned about your back pain, you should always seek advice. For further information see the NHS web page on back pain
Pilates was born from the teachings of Joseph Pilates who believed that movement and exercise played a key role in a person’s physical and mental health. Pilates focuses on strengthening the body’s pelvic floor and core stability muscles which act like a corset to support around the spine. The strength and control of these muscles is then challenged through movement of our arms and legs. Pilates also enables you to focus on your alignments and maintain movement and flexibility from stretches.
Backs and other aches
It is very common that as a result of lower back pain we begin to develop compensatory movement patterns which can lead to stiffness in joints and muscle weakness. Pilates encourages rehabilitation through movement and good postural alignment.
As a Physiotherapist I often use Pilates based exercises for people with lower back pain. Pilates exercises can be gradually progressed and modified depending on the severity of your pain and level of activity allowing you to avoid aggravating positions and emphasise more relieving positions and movement. Strengthening and retraining your core and pelvic floor muscles to work effectively during day to day activities can help to restore normal movement patterns and reduce pain.
Getting it right
It can sometimes be tricky to feel you are working the right muscles when trying to engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominal core muscles but remember that less is often more and we only need to engage these muscles about twenty per cent when performing the exercises for them to work effectively. It is important to get this right first and then progress and build on challenging these muscles otherwise you may increase the strain on your back and other joints.
However, strengthening your core is not the only reason Pilates can be so beneficial for people with lower back pain, regular stretching of your lower back to relieve tight muscles and joint stiffness is also an important component.
Living with pain can often lead to increased stress and muscle tension. Breathing control practiced with Pilates can also help to reduce this built up muscle tension as well as allowing you to focus and reconnect with your body’s movement.
Exercise is a recommended form of treatment for people suffering from mechanical low back pain (NICE guidelines: Low back pain and Sciatica) but Pilates is not the only form of exercise that can help. So it is important to always find what works best for you and to what feels most comfortable and beneficial but most importantly find an exercise you enjoy!
Try some Pilates for back pain today
Many of the classes on this webiste will help you strengthen your core and pelvic floor and so can gradually help reduce mechanical lower back pain. If you’d like to get started, we have a class designed with this in mind:
Other ways to deal with back pain
Keep it movin’
Our spines are like the rest of our body, they’re designed to move.
As mentioned above, one of the reasons of Pilates helps alleviate back is simply that it encourages controlled movement. But it is certainly not the only way to stay mobile – go for a walk, stretch regularly, tidy the house…whatever, just keep moving. You’ll know what feels OK, and when you’re ready, introduce more aerobic exercise such as cycling or hiking.
Gone but not forgotten
You may find that your pain recedes and that is great. But don’t put it to the back of your mind. Continue to build strength in your back through some of the exercises recommended above. Get into a good routine to keep your body strong and so prevent the re-occurrence of back pain. Try to be disciplined with your exercise regime.
According to some sources, research continues to emerge demonstrating the benefits in using turmeric for conditions characterised by inflammation. Including studies that suggest that turmeric can help with upper and lower back pain.
Ergonomics and posture
Take the time to ensure your work space, driving position or even your favourite comfy chair supports good posture. Ensure you have lower back support, and that your are not forward – such as to see a screen.
Ice and heat
The use of ice, cold pack or similar can reduce inflammation (if that is what appears to be the problem.) Heat can help with pain if it is persistent to help. Ensure you give your skin regular breaks and if the pain does not recede you should speak to a medical professional.