OPTIONS PILATES STUDIO
Will Pilates help my back pain?
Statistically, every one of us is likely to experience at least one episode of lower back pain in our lives. It’s also likely that many of us will hear this: “Back pain? You should try Pilates.” Lower back pain and discomfort is on the increase, due for the most part, to our 21st century sedentary lifestyles and increased dependence on technology. Back pain can be a chronic or constant problem, especially if one is overweight and/or inactive. If you are one of those people who wake up with their first thought being, “My back hurts” or spend each day reaching for pain killers to reduce the constant ache in your lower spine, then Pilates may be just the solution you need!
Pilates strengthens the core abdominal muscles, a corset-like group of muscles that stabilize the torso and pelvis much like a big, thick belt. Additionally, Pilates increases awareness for correct posture, body alignment and healthy body mechanics. This translates into standing and sitting taller, which not only feels better, but also relieves pressure between the vertebral discs in your spine. This combined focus on increasing abdominal muscle strength and movements which lengthen and mobilise the spine results in reduced, or indeed, complete elimination of back pain.
Why do we get back pain?
Sometimes the cause of back pain isn’t the back at all but rather imbalances in the hips or pelvis. Over time, our unconscious habits like sinking into one hip while standing or crossing one leg over the other while seated can cause back pain. Pilates exercises are designed to counteract and address these postural imbalances. A good instructor can spot potential problems such as one leg that works harder or one side of the hip that sits higher than the other. The instructor can then help you work on aligning and stabilizing the pelvis and legs, thereby lessening the strain on the back muscles.
Our current lifestyles have largely contributed to common postural and muscular imbalances and misalignments. For example, copious amounts of time spent driving or sitting at a desk can lead to tight hamstring muscles and weak glute muscles (the back sides of your legs and butt). This then pulls the lower back into an anterior tilt (arch) which creates strain. Over time this will start to become painful as the lower back becomes compressed and stuck in that arch-like position. Similarly, hunching over our phones and desktop computers and laptops creates a rounded forward posture. Pilates exercises emphasize the neutral spine and pelvis with a focus on restoring the natural curves of the lower, middle and upper spine.
How can Pilates help?
A single Pilates workout can sometimes improve back pain in the same way that a massage can bring relief to tight muscles. For lasting results, however, and to prevent future episodes of back pain, it is recommended you aim to attend 2-3 Pilates sessions per week – particularly in the beginning when you are just learning. And give yourself at least four to six weeks to feel the results. Once you begin to practice Pilates, you will naturally begin to implement healthier movement patterns into your daily routines and activities, such as unloading groceries from the car or lifting up a child. Pilates increases awareness of correct spinal alignment and good posture, so you will be more aware when you start to slump at your desk or cross your legs when sitting or leaning into one hip when standing and immediately make corrections. In short, Pilates will help fix your incorrect movement patterns and strengthen your abdominal and postural muscles, thus relieving your back pain and discomfort.
Not every Pilates exercise is suitable for those suffering from back pain so it’s critical you find a fully qualified and certified Instructor who knows exactly which Pilates exercises to choose to assist you in your goal to be free of back pain.