Pilates for Back Pain
Approximately 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Along with the common cold, back pain is one of the most typical reasons to visit a physician or miss a day of work. Keeping your body healthy with Pilates can prevent back pain and help you feel stronger year after year.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions; however, the most common cause is poor posture. How you hold your body during movement, sitting at your desk, and even sleeping can create muscular imbalances in your body. Often repetitive stress from working conditions or a poorly supporting mattress will be the initial cause of your back pain.
Be aware that there are several more serious causes of back pain, such as sprain or strain of tendons and ligaments, herniated discs, or other degenerative diseases of the spine. As we age, the inter-vertebral discs of the spine degenerate and essentially dry out, losing their supporting function. Prolonged sitting in chairs and a lack of physical activity accelerates this process. These discs can then begin to compress the nerves that exit between each vertebrae causing pain, tingling, or numbness.
Back pain is not only a physical problem; often it also has a mental component. Emotions and psychological stress can have a significant impact on your health and perception of pain. By integrating relaxation techniques into your daily regimen, you can help your body better manage the pain and promote healing.
What Is Pilates?
Pilates is a method of exercise developed in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates. His system was originally called Contrology and was primarily developed to help rehabilitate injuries and strengthen the body. Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles of the body, which includes the abdomen, hips, and lower back.These muscle groups support our posture and prevent injury, especially to the lower back.
Pilates was greatly influenced by yoga and meditationleading to its intention on developing a deeper mind-body connection. As you focus on performing specific, controlled movements, you increase your awareness of your body, learning to minimize unnecessary muscular tension.
How Can Pilates Help Back Pain?
Injury to your back is often due to a decline and imbalance in strength and flexibility. Since Pilates focuses on the development of strength and flexibility in a controlled manner, it is ideally suited to rehabilitate and prevent back injury. The sequences of exercises practiced during a Pilates session will strengthen your core muscles and correct muscles imbalances in your body.
One of the most important things you will learn from Pilates training is to correct your posture. Improper posture creates continual stress on our body creating muscle imbalances, leaving one side of opposing muscles weaker.
The Pilates method will help to engage the core muscles, or Powerhouse. This is accomplished by pulling the navel towards the spine, and slightly tucking under the hips. As you adjust your body in this manner, the core muscles begin to support your torso and align the posture. This technique can be applied throughout the day as you walk, sit, and stand; eventually learning to maintain this state automatically.
Correct your posture by following these guidelines:
- Avoid locking your knees at all times, which can create unnecessary pressure on your spine.
- Make sure to engage your powerhouse (core muscles) at all times. Keeping your core strong will help the deep stabilizing muscles of the body support your weight, instead of the weaker movement focused muscles.
- Keep your shoulder blades pulling down the back, and lift the head as if a string is pulling the top of the head to the sky. Maintaining a vertical alignment will allow your skeletal structure to support your weight.
Tips for Back Pain Relief
Follow these tips to help manage and prevent back pain.
During an acute attack of back pain, start to practice deep breathing. Slow and rhythmic breathing will calm your mind and allowthe body to enter into a more relaxed state.
Lie on a Hard Surface
Lying on the floor can be especially beneficial. Remember to place a pillow or some other support under your legs to comfortably keep your knees bent. Bending you knees will decrease the pressure on your back.
Performing light stretching several times per day can keep your body from becoming stiff and improve the circulation of blood and nutrients to your back. Regular Pilates training sessions can teach you to move correctly during exercise.
Don’t Sit for Long Periods of Time
Sitting in chairs is a common cause of back pain. A poor sitting posture is typical during long work hours, which leads to repetitive stress on the muscles causing muscle imbalances.Apply Pilates principles during sitting can help prevent muscle strain.
Listen to Your Body
Developing a more conscious connection to your body through Pilates will help you identify when you are overstraining your back and help prevent reoccurrences of your back pain. Pilates, meditation and self-massage are excellent methods to increase your mind-body awareness.
Remember, a thorough diagnosis from a medical professional is highly recommended for chronic back pain. A proper diagnosis will help you make the correct lifestyle changes to support your condition.