25 April 2014 by Neil Boston
Pilates exercises help clients overcome back problems by teaching awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and by strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment – important skills for people with back pain.
Individuals with pain stemming from excessive movement or degeneration of the intervertebral discs and joints are particularly likely to benefit from a Pilates exercise programme. In addition, postural asymmetries can be improved, thus decreasing wear and tear resulting from uneven stresses on the intervertebral joints and discs.
Pilates exercises improve strength, flexibility and suppleness of the muscles of the hip and shoulder girdle. Pain and swelling in any joint prevents the local small muscles working and “global” muscles take over responsibility for movement. However, the result is jerky, poorly controlled and inefficient movement that causes further stress to the area.
The Pilates programme helps to “switch back on” core muscles that support the small spinal joints to re-educate normal movement patterns. Clients will also develop a better awareness of movement habits that may stress the spine so that you can help yourself to change these bad habits to those that preserve neutral alignment. Awareness of excessive tension and the use of mindfulness will help you to use your body more efficiently.
Considerations for Back Pain Patients Commencing Pilates
Before starting any new exercise system, it is always advisable to check with your doctor or other healthcare provider. It is also important to check that the potential instructor has received training in the Pilates exercise system, and that he or she understands any specific back problems.
Individuals with significant back problems may benefit from several one-to-one Pilates sessions with a qualified Pilates instructor. While more expensive than a group class, the time, money and effort devoted to learning the exercises correctly can be well worth the investment, as exercises performed incorrectly can make a back problem worse. Initially, twice-a-week sessions tend to be helpful to learn the programme more quickly. After that, weekly Pilates exercise sessions may be enough if the individual practices at home between sessions.
As a general rule, back patients should avoid exercises that push the spine into extremes of flexion or extension, or which combine flexion with side bending or twisting the spine. The exercises should be physically and mentally challenging but pain should be avoided and you need to advise your teacher if you feel discomfort so that the exercise can be modified for you.
It may take months of practising the exercises before you start to feel the full benefit as you are possibly trying to undo years of moving badly. Many of my clients find a short (maybe 10 minutes) daily session of Pilates exercises helps to keep their back problem at bay. Don’t forget another beneficial side effect of a strong core is a nice flat, toned tummy. Perfect for summer, perfect at any time!
Blog submitted by Linda Boston.