If you’re living with back pain, you’ve probably looked for ways to manage it. One popular way to manage back pain is through pilates. Not only is Pilates a great, low impact exercise, but there are plenty of ways to customize your Pilates exercises for back pain relief. There are many exercises specifically meant to strengthen your core muscles, providing back pain relief, and preventing injury.
Continue reading to learn how Pilates is able to provide back pain relief as well as which exercises are best for pain management and prevention.
How Pilates Helps Relieve Back Pain
Pilates helps relieve and prevent back pain by improving your spine’s mobility. Practicing pilates does this by focusing on each vertebra in your spine as an individual bone and encourages your vertebrae to stay in correct alignment.
This also improves the stability of your abdominal and back muscles, which prevents joint stiffness and muscle tightness.
The Principles of Pilates
There are six main principles of pilates: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. Each of these principles works together so that your pilates exercises for back pain will actually provide you with relief.
The centering principle encourages the engagement of your abdominal muscles. This will help your back pain by strengthening your abs and increasing the support your spine and lower back get. Strong abdominal muscles will also improve your posture, removing strain from your spine.
The concentration principle is focused on your mind-body connection and is what helps you maintain proper pilates form when practicing. This will help you become more mindful of your body and can translate into better posture, proper form when lifting items off the floor, and more.
Control focuses on muscle control. This is focused on increasing the strength and stability of your body through pilates. Better control of your muscles will lead to better stability of lower back and abdominal muscles during all activities, not just exercise, and this will protect your back by preventing injury as well as providing support.
After practicing Pilates exercises for back pain for some time, the precision principle will come into practice. This involves the proper engagement of the muscles, correct form, and body awareness.
Breath actually plays a large role in ensuring that your pilates exercises for back pain provide protection to your back and relieve your pain. Proper breath control during pilates is important for a few reasons. Breath provides nutrients to your muscles, engages your abdominals (which are very important for back pain relief and prevention!), and makes you more aware of the exercises.
Flow is the choreography of your Pilates exercises for back pain. Proper flow involves a focus on your body mechanics during your Pilates practice. Similar to concentration and control, this leads to improved posture and form in your daily activities, protecting your spine by reducing back injuries.
Research About Pilates Exercises for Back Pain
In a 2008 study that examined participants with non-specific chronic low back pain, researchers found that mind-body exercises were a helpful form of therapy to help patients manage their back pain.
However, the study also concluded that when using pilates for back pain relief, you should be careful to choose an instructor that has significant experience, or better yet, experience working with participants trying to manage back pain.
Pilates Exercises for Back Pain Relief
The following are a few pilates exercises for back pain that are known to provide relief for those managing pain. Practicing these exercises will also be beneficial for those living without back pain who are trying to prevent its onset.
Half Roll Down
This exercise is a great ab workout and involves making a ‘C’ shape with your body. When practicing, you need to make sure that you hold your abs up to make the top of the ‘C’ shape so that they’ll be engaged properly.
- Start by touching your fingertips to your thigh and ‘roll’ backward while extending your arms.
- When your arms are completely straight, move back into your starting position. It should almost feel like a crunch.
This is another exercise that will help strengthen your abdominal muscles, allowing your body to rely on your abs for support.
- Start by lying on your back with your legs straight and your arms reaching over your head.
- Extend your right leg up while curling up off your shoulder blades and reach for either your calf or thigh then grab behind your leg gently with both hands, hovering your left leg above the floor.
- Keep your torso lifted and switch your legs so your left leg is now pointing up while your right leg hovers above the floor.
The chest lift is another core strengthening exercise that will help protect your back from injury.
- Start by laying on your back with your spine in a neutral position, your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your hands behind your head. You should engage your pelvic floor and other core muscles.
- Exhale while lifting your head and chest and avoid doming your stomach out toward the ceiling. You should also make sure that your pelvis is not tilting.
- Inhale as you lay your head back down.
For an added challenge, you can lift your legs into tabletop position or move into hundreds.
If you lack pelvic stability or core awareness, this exercise will be perfect for you. It challenges your core while working your abdominal and hip flexors.
- Start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent, legs parallel, and your arms relaxed and at your sides with your palms down and your pelvis in a neutral position.
- Exhale while raising one leg until your knee is above your hip joint and your thigh is perpendicular to your mat.
- Inhale while lowering your leg back down to the mat so that you’re back in your starting position.
- Repeat this exercise 5 times with each leg.
Hamstring and Hip Flexor Stretch
If you have tight hamstrings or hip flexors, this could be causing your back pain. Thoroughly stretching these muscles will help relieve tension in your back and regularly stretching them will help improve your posture over time.
- Hamstring Stretch
- Start by lying on your back. Bend one leg, keeping your foot flat on the floor, and lift your other leg toward the ceiling. You can use a towel or resistance band to hold your leg up if you need extra support.
- Keeping your leg as straight as possible, pull your leg as far toward yourself as you can, until you feel a stretch through the back of your leg. Hold for 15-20 seconds.
- Breathe through this exercise, using your inhales and exhales to go deeper into your stretch.
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel on the ground, keeping one leg forward and your foot flat on the ground. Keep your spine tall and tuck your pelvis tucked under you.
- You should feel a stretch through the front of your hip. You can bring your weight forward to feel a deeper stretch.
Supine Spine Twist
This exercise will strengthen your oblique muscles and stretch your back muscles, preventing tightness.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs in a tabletop position. Your knees should be directly above your hip joints and your lower legs should be parallel to the mat. Keep your arms in a T position with your palms facing up. Your lumbar spine (the lower back) should be pressing into your mat.
- While exhaling, pull your abdominal wall in to perform a slight posterior pelvic tilt and gently pull your inner thighs together.
- Inhale while rotating your spine and moving your pelvis, lowering your legs to one side.
- Exhale and rotate your legs back to the center.
- Inhale and rotate your spine again, moving your pelvis and legs to the other side.
- Once again, exhale and return your legs to the center.
- Repeat this 5 times on each side.
Come See Us At The Spine Institute Northwest!
At the Spine Institute Northwest, we want you to know how to manage your back pain so you can live comfortably. However, we know that management isn’t enough for everyone, which is why we’re here to provide minimally invasive back surgery to treat your pain.
Conveniently located in the Seattle area, our team of dedicated surgeons is available to guide you to a more mobile life!
Contact us today at (888) 712-0318, or visit our site to set an appointment for a free MRI review. We offer a total care package that allows us to make a personalized plan to help you get started on your journey toward a pain-free life.
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