Pilates as Back Pain Therapy

Pilates – a form of exercise named after its inventor, Joseph H. Pilates – is often recommended for people who live with neck pain or back pain. The reason for this is because Pilates exercises target the main causes of back pain, such as poor posture, weak core muscles and unsupported pelvic muscles.

A top focus of Pilates is neutral spine alignment. “Neutral spine alignment” is the medical term for what is commonly called “good posture” and refers to the natural curvatures that a healthy spine should have. Many people have lost the ability to achieve neutral spine alignment after years of improper posture. Proper posture, combined with deep back and abdominal muscle strengthening exercises, often leads to reduced back pain and improved quality of life for many people.

Pilates and posture

Proper posture is something of a lost art in modern American society. The prevalence of desk jobs, driving and other cultural factors have influenced many people to adapt slouched postures for many hours a day without even realizing it. However, regaining good posture requires more than just walking around with a book on your head.

Pilates techniques can help re-teach what it means to have a neutral spinal alignment. This alignment is vital for preventing or alleviating conditions such as herniated discs and can help relieve the pain of sciatica. Pilates also teaches techniques for stretching the spine, which is also helpful for these conditions.

Abdominal support

Another key benefit of Pilates for those experiencing back pain is increased core strength and abdominal support. Your core muscles are the support system for your entire torso; not only do they serve to keep the spine straight, but they also keep your pelvic muscles from drooping forward and pulling your lower torso out of alignment. Since Pilates combines abdominal strength training with proper alignment techniques, it addresses two major causes of back pain at the same time.

Getting started

First, be aware that not all Pilates exercises are good for people who have back pain. Many of the motions demanded by advanced Pilates involve twisting and stretching components that may actually exacerbate your spinal pain. It’s best to stick to simple exercises that do not overly tax your neck and back. Pre-Pilates, which teaches the core principles of Pilates, such as alignment, movement and body awareness, may be a good place to start, especially if your current fitness level is below-average. Most importantly, seek a veteran instructor who has experience dealing with neck pain and back pain.

As always, consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program. If exercise programs and other conservative treatments do not relieve your neck and back pain, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive outpatient procedures can help you find relief from back pain.