As my Pilates classes have grown and my networking has increases I’ve had more and more people being referred by Chiropractors or Physio’s. A lot of these people are coming because of back pain. What’s so exciting is to then hear and see the improvements in people after just a few sessions. So what is it about Pilates that works so well for back pain relief?
Pilates addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body that lead to back pain. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all affect back health.
Pilates Helps Correct Posture
In Pilates, we pay a lot of attention to how our body parts are lined up in relation to each other, which is our alignment. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates exercises, done with attention to alignment, allow movement to flow through the body in a natural way.
For example, one of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. The spine can’t form its natural curve and you get aches and pains all up the spine and neck. Doing Pilates helps you focus on holding a “neutral spine” which means the proper placement of the spine and pelvis. Strengthening your core creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine.
Pilates Develops Core Strength
Having core strength means that all of the muscles of the trunk of your body are strong, flexible, and working together to support and stabilize the spine. This goes deeper than the big surface muscles, it’s not about building “6 pack” I’m afraid! The core muscles include the muscles that are below the surface musculature. Some of these less obvious but very important core muscles are the muscles of the pelvic floor; and the psoas, which play a huge role in keeping us upright and in hip bending; which are small muscles that weave along the spine; and the transverse and oblique abdominal muscles. All of these muscles play crucial roles in the support and stability of the spine.
Pilates Promotes Flexibility
A healthy spine can curve forward and backward, twist, and move side to side, and do so in a way that reveals all the subtle articulations that our many vertebrae allow us to have. Pilates exercises are easy to modify so that we can develop spinal flexibility at our own pace. This is one of the things about Pilates that makes it easy for people with back pain to work with. In my classes there are different options for exercises so you work at your level.
Back pain is a messenger letting us know that we have to pay more attention to our bodies. The Pilates method is full attention exercise. You can’t do Pilates without becoming extremely aware of your alignment and how your body works. This is extremely important for people with back pain because Pilates not only improve physical functioning, but makes you more aware of what you are doing in day to day life. So as you are walking, bending and sitting you start to think about your alignment and core.