Pilates is a system of exercises performed on a mat or equipment to promote strength, stability, and flexibility. If you are a fitness enthusiast, you've probably seen, heard of or even performed Pilates. With a multitude of benefits and fast results, it's no wonder why Pilates has been increasing in it's popularity over the years. But what about back pain? Can Pilates be done with lower back pain? How about helping the pain, can Pilates alleviate back pain? We've asked a network of worldwide Pilates Instructors for their advice on working with Pilates and lower back pain. Read on to see what these top instructors had to say.
Should I do Pilates with Lower Back Pain?
Yes, if there is one thing research has taught us, it's that mobility and movement increase range of motion and promote healing. Now, despite this there may be some Pilates exercises that would be counter intuitive to your pain, but a certified Pilates instructor would be able to modify and work around this. More and more doctors and chiropractors have started recommending Pilates, even adding some form of the movement in their own practice. Research studies have also been done showing a moderate improvement in those suffering as they practices Pilates, but not significantly superior to other forms of exercise; but that's the key- Movement! We say that Pilates can most definitely benefit those suffering with lower back pain, that is of course, if performed correctly.
Pilates Exercises to Help Lower Back Pain
As we've addressed, movement is key, or "Change happens through movement and movement heals" from Joseph Pilates himself. That being said, some instructors would argue that there is not one best specific Pilates exercise for low back pain and we agree; but there are the ones that have worked best for our students and that's what we intend to share. A well trained instructor can offer modifications for each exercise, even omitting some, but as Joseph Pilates said, “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” Now that we've shown that Pilates can be for beneficial for lower back pain, lets swan dive in. Without further adieu, here's what our Pilates Instructors had to say.
Pilates Abs Series with Ball
Yvonne Romão, Owner of Yvonne's Pilates Studio in Portugal says "I love to use medium sized soft balls (air filled) to place under their sacrum to reduce pain and for my clients to be able to do some pilates abdominal work without hurting their lumbar spine. In more than 90% of the time it really helps."
Helen Conway, Pilates Specialist also recommends a ball, but gets more specific with the size. "One of the moves I get most positive feedback from clients, is a pelvis tilt with the pelvis resting on the 9 inch Pilates ball. It gently massages around the sacrum and allows people to gently mobilize the lumbar spine."
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The Hundred- "I find the Hundred aligns, stabilizes and sets the tone for the Pilates workout. With so many variations, modifications and advancements, it works for everyone. My favorite way to help those with low back pain is to place their feet against a wall, bent or straight legs (whatever supports their back pain best), head may lift or stay lowered- then raise straight arms a few inches of mat and start pumping vigorously up and down focusing on each inhale and exhale. The goal is to do 100 pumps of the arms or 10 breaths, but that's the beauty- You take your time... 1 set, 5 sets and continue build the endurance and strength in the muscles that support the spine."
Samantha Peytoureau, Pilates Instructor and Fitness Personal Trainer at Samantha's Pilates Coaching IG: @samthann_pilates
says, "For low back pain, I would work on a 3 dimensions process:
- Extend the spine on the Swiss ball: I love using the Swiss ball as it perfectly matches the curve of the spine. This exercise allows a total relaxation of the client, in complete confidence and thus restores space between each vertebra. The softness of the ball also gives the client the feeling of floating and therefore eliminates tension throughout the body.
- Strengthening the back. Generally, the pain comes from a lack of muscle tone. All variations of the superman are essential for strengthening the lumbar region. Forehead on hands, arms in cactus position, extended arms,... The engagement of abdominals on this exercise allows the client to work in complete safety and thus to accompany the lumbar region in the movements.
- The sequenced cat and cow is one of my favorite exercises. It helps to become aware of the entirety of his spine and thus give it maximum mobility. I encourage performing it in sequence: articulating vertebrae after vertebrae starting with the tailbone, then lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and finally cervical spine."
Many instructors agree that Pilates exercises strengthen and stabilize the body, offer controlled mobility and therefore can be beneficial to those suffering with low back pain. While many stand out as best, it really depends on the specifics of the pain to find which one suits you. Pilates is a system of exercises, so we're sure you'll find more than one works best and some favorites as well. If you are looking to relieve low back pain it seems everyone would agree that you'll need to move, so why not try Pilates?
Tell us about your journey... Do you use Pilates to relieve low back pain? Drop a comment below and share your favorite Pilates exercise.