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How Pilates Can Help Back Pain


Most people know that strong abdominal muscles help with lower back pain, but just doing regular sit ups is not necessarily the answer - we must be more specific than this and make sure we are activating specific muscles in the correct way for abdominal exercises to have any effect on back pain at all. However, when done correctly specific abdominal exercises can have a huge impact on helping lower back pain.

The most important abdominal muscle in preventing and rehabilitating lower back pain is the Transversus Abdominus (TA). The TA is the deepest core muscle, and is a large muscle that wraps horizontally around the body like a corset, starting from the ribs and continuing down to the pelvis. When the TA tightens, it functions to form a deep internal corset that acts to draw the abdomen in and stabilize the spine during movement. The Pelvic Floor and buttock muscles also help the TA to correct lower back pain by helping to stabilise the pelvis.

Many studies have shown that this pattern of protection is disrupted in patients with low back pain, and isolated strengthening of these muscles has been proven to reduce back pain. In people who don't have back pain, the TA is activated at a low level all of the time. When you go to perform any movement, such as bending forwards or lifting something, the TA tightens before you perform the movement to protect the spine. In people who have back pain, the TA does not tighten, leaving the spine vulnerable. How long will it take for Pilates to help my back? Most people will find that Pilates does help decrease the symptoms of their back pain. This will depend on the type and severity of injury, how long you have had the injury for and how often you are practicing Pilates. Some people find that after a few sessions their back feels stronger, for other people it can take several months to see the improvements.

What clients usually find is that they feel stronger in their Pilates sessions and can perform more of the exercises. A decrease in the client’s pain then usually follows this gain in strength.

General Tips for Alleviating Back Pain

Whilst you are performing Pilates to help your back pain, here are some other tips to help your recovery and management:

Keep moving – generally speaking when you have back pain, the worst thing that you can do

is sit all day and do nothing. Careful movement and specific exercises will help to keep up

your strength and mobility. Don’t wait until your back is completely better before starting up

an exercise such as Pilates, otherwise it may never get better!

Take care to avoid any heavy lifting, and choose carefully the activities you perform outside of your Pilates classes. Things like gardening, house cleaning, and other sports can all be hard on your back and cause pain. 

Watch your posture and tighten your T-zone in everyday life, not just in your classes. The T-zone is there to support you all day.

 If you have been avoiding your other usual exercise methods until your back improves, when you are ready to go back into your other exercise, taper in gradually rather than just jumping back into a full on training program.

 Seek the advice of a health professional eg Doctor, Physiotherapist or other Allied Health professional if your back pain continues or worsens, as it is often a combined effort of treatment that improves back pain.


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