Pilates

pilates for back pain

backpain

Introduction:

Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on strengthening the core muscles of the body to improve posture and flexibility. It has become increasingly popular as a form of physical therapy for people suffering from low back pain.

Pilates can be an effective way to reduce pain, improve mobility, and increase strength in the lower back and core muscles. Studies have shown that regular practice of Pilates can help reduce chronic low back pain, improve posture, and even prevent future injuries. By incorporating Pilates into your daily routine, you can experience a variety of benefits including improved posture and flexibility, increased core strength, improved balance and coordination, reduced stress levels, improved circulation, increased energy levels and overall wellbeing.

The Back Structure

The structure of our back is made up pf the spine, discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons all connecting in different ways.

Our spine is one of the strongest parts of the body, made up of solid blocks of bone what we call vertebrae, that are joined by pads that act like shock absorbers and allow for flexibility. The spine is heavily supported by powerful muscles and ligaments.

Back pain

Back pain can be caused due to a variety of reasons. It has been estimated that many people 9 out of 10) will suffer from back pain at some point on their lives. These back issues can come from fitness level, weight gain, job related risk factors, stress level, age or hereditary.

In some cases back pain can start and go quickly, in other cases some form of treatment may be required, seeking advice and support from a Doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist etc. In the main sometimes there is no real obvious cause of back pain, sometimes our hips, back and pelvis can become weak and stiff and as a result cause back pain. The knock-on effect of these areas not being able to move in the ways it should cause issues with other joints in our bodies such as knees, ankles shoulders.

Our bodies are very sophisticated and can sometimes (to our own detriment) compensate for areas of the body that is injured. Our knees, arms, shoulders, spine etc will adjust itself to allow our bodies to continue with our daily lives, causing an excessive strain on the compensated area. However, once we realise this we have the chance to change and focus on restoring the required movement in our body.

How Pilates can help

Pilates focuses on bringing our bodies back into alignment. It works on adjusting our joints and strengthening muscles to neutral position. In essence, Pilates helps to rehabilitate muscles, joints and ligaments throughout our body to move in their normal pattern.

Pilates provides a holistic approach to back pain relief, Pilates addresses core muscle strength meaning it works all abdominal muscles to support the spine. Spine stability and mobilisation, balance, posture improvement and working on all areas of the body such as shoulders, neck, and hips. Working on an all over body practice, not only helps to relieve current pain, but also prevent future pain especially if conducted on a regular basis, irrespective of back pain.

Pilates for Back Pain

Before embarking on Pilates for your back pain it is always good to speak to a physiotherapist first to ensure that it is safe to do so, your back pain may be due to other reason.

A sample of Pilates exercises that can be practiced for lower back pain

1. Pelvic tilts / Imprinting the spine.

Lie supine with the knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-width apart. Place the arms by the sides with the palms facing down. Relax your neck, shoulders and lower back, lower back in neutral spine (small gap between your lower back and the mat).

Inhale to prepare, exhale to set the core and slowly curl the pelvis and spine off the mat, one vertebra at a time.

Inhale and hold at the top. The pelvis should be at maximum posterior tilt and a stretch should be in the hip flexors.

Exhale and slowly lower the trunk. Roll down one vertebra at a time, returning to the starting position. Repeat the cycle ten times.

2. Spine twist (supine position)

Lie supine, with the legs in a tabletop position so the knees are directly above the hip joints and the lower legs are parallel to the mat. Have the arms in a T position with the palms facing up. Make sure the lumbar spine is pressing into the mat.

Exhale and pull the abdominal wall in and perform a slight posterior pelvis tilt. Gently pull the inner thighs together.

Inhale and rotate the spine and move the pelvis, lowering the legs to one side.

Exhale and rotate back to centre.

Inhale and rotate the spine and move the pelvis, lowering the legs to the other side.

Finally, exhale and return to centre.

Repeat the sequence five times on each side.

3. Back extension (Swan)

Lie on the mat face down.

Keep your arms close to your body as you bend your elbows to bring your hands under your shoulders. Shoulders should be away from the ears.

The legs are usually together, but it is acceptable to do this exercise with the legs shoulder-width apart.

Engage your abdominal muscles, lifting your belly button up away from the mat. The abdominals remain lifted throughout the exercise.

Inhale: Lengthen your spine, sending energy through the top of your head as you press your forearms and hands into the mat to support a long upward arc of the upper body. You might come up just a few inches.

Keep your neck long. Don’t make a crease by tilting your head back.

Protect your low back by sending your tailbone down toward the mat.

Exhale: Keep your abdominals lifted as you release the arc, lengthening your spine as your torso returns to the mat in a sequential way: low-belly, mid-belly, low ribs, and so on.

Repeat 5 times.

4. Side Bend

Sit sideways on the mat with the weight on one hip.

Press the palm of the supporting arm into the mat with the fingers pointing away from the body.

Bend the legs and place the top foot in front of the bottom foot.

Rest the top arm along the side of the body.

Inhale as the pelvis lifts away from the mat, straightening both legs and raising the top arm to 90 degrees of shoulder abduction.

Exhale as the pelvis lifts higher into a laterally flexed position and the top arm reaching overhead.

Inhale to return to the previous position, then exhale to lower down to the starting position.

Repeat 10 times, then change to the other side.

5. Shoulder bridge (table tops toe tap)

Lie supine, with the legs in a tabletop position so the knees are directly above the hips, lower legs are parallel to the mat. Have the arms in a T position with the palms facing up. Make sure the lumbar / lower spine is pressing into the mat.

Exhale and pull the abdominal wall in and perform a slight posterior pelvis tilt. Gently pull the inner thighs together.

Inhale and rotate the spine and move the pelvis, lowering the legs to one side.

Exhale and rotate back to centre.

Inhale and rotate the spine and move the pelvis, lowering the legs to the other side.

Finally, exhale and return to centre. Repeat the series five times on each side.

6. Spine Stretch

Sit up tall on your sit bones.

Your legs are straight in front of you about shoulder-width apart, feet are flexed.

If your hamstrings are tight, you can sit on a small pillow or a folded towel or Pilates block. You can also bend your knees slightly.

Reach the top of your head to the ceiling, shoulders should be relaxed away from your ears.

Inhale and extend your arms out in front of you, shoulder height.

Exhale as you lengthen your spine to curve forward. You are going for a C-curve. Don’t collapse. Let your abdominal muscles support you in an up-and-over movement.

Reach your fingers toward your toes.

Inhale and reach a little further as you enjoy the fullness of your stretch.

Exhale as you return by using the lower abdominals to bring your pelvis upright. Roll your spine up to sitting.

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