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Is Pilates The Answer To Back Pain

Have you thought about Pilates as an option for treating back pain? Our Chartered Physiotherapist Danielle Mah, discusses Pilates as a treatment option for Back Pain, one of the most commonly seen problems in our clinics. Here is Part 1 of the blog, where Danielle argues the “Yes” side of Pilates for Back pain treatment. 

Is Pilates the answer to back pain? The easy answer is yes, AND no which probably doesn’t help most of you out there!

Back pain as you may have gathered can manifest itself in many ways,have many causes, can have long or short histories, and can be masking other conditions. There is a buzz out there at the moment regarding pilates and there have been a few ‘controversial’ articles regarding its usefulness in treatment for back injuries. I want to try and dispel the misconceptions and provide advice to those who are looking for an active remedy to back troubles.

Before Beginning Pilates…

First things first. ALWAYS get a professional assessment by a chartered physiotherapist to quantify and diagnose your back pain. It may not be appropriate or safe for you to start exercising depending on your condition and event though Pilates may be recommended (as on occasion by your GP), some exercises in the class may need to be cautioned or avoided. A trained physiotherapist with a knowledge of Pilates will be able to provide the appropriate advice.

Secondly, What is Pilates anyway?? It is a series of exercises that focus on the ‘control of movement’. It is the age old saying: ‘it’s not what you’re doing but how you do it that counts’. Pilates epitomises this theme in exercise. Pilates is not a routine that will leave you dripping in sweat, or crawling on your elbows out the door, but it will give your stomach and backside something to remember whilst having you walk out of a class with more confidence in your posture than when you came in.

When I teach myself, I may seem a stickler for technique, but that’s what it’s all about. Some of the individuals in my class may be working away thinking they’re doing a great job until I alter one small detail in their technique, and they wonder why lifting their leg or sitting up off the floor has become so hard!

Pilates? Why YES for back pain

Pilates can help with control. It concentrates on the muscles that support the back, which are the deepest layer of abdominals. You may already know about the ’6-pack’, the most superficial layer being the rectus abdominus, followed by the 2 layers of oblique muscles.

Less commonly known are the transverse abdominals, known as the body’s natural corset. It is the layer that circumferentially goes around the midsection attaching to the spine at the back, therefore aiding in taking load away from the back when necessary. These are the muscles that are the most useful in helping to support and re-strengthen the mid-section, after pain in the back has weakened these muscles. These are also the muscles that are commonly forgotten when doing an ‘ab’ workout. It’s not just about sit-ups.

Also, working the muscles around the pelvis, like the gluteals will further improve stability in movement (balance) and support the back from lower down. Having a stable base in which the back sits takes pressure off the joints in the back. A lot of people’s back pain is one-sided. My “dodgy left side” or “dodgy right side”…this is no coincidence. There is no question that the gluteals or backside muscles on that side need to be worked on or assessed by a physiotherapist and can be successfully re-strengthened in a pilates regime.

I know it has sounded like a lot of YES to pilates but what about the NO….We will discuss this in the next instalment of Danielle’s blog! Keep an eye out   for it!! Thanks to Danielle, who works in our Barrow Street clinic for writing this piece!

Useful Resources

These links might be of some interest to you if you are suffering with back pain

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