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Is Pilates the Answer to Back Pain? Part 2

In the first part of this blog, our Chartered Physiotherapist, Danielle Mah discussed the the “Yes” aspect of how using Pilates for Back Pain treatment. In this part, Danielle takes us through the “No” side of the topic.

I know it has sounded like a lot of YES to pilates in the last blog instalment but what about the NO….

Why No to Pilates for Back Pain Treatment

NO to pilates has happened for some because they’ve come out of a class and felt worse or just no better.This can be for a couple reasons. NO, pilates didn’t work for them usually because they were doing a class that was too hard. If you’ve just come out of a bout of back pain and your physiotherapist has discharged you with the advice of joining up for pilates and you’ve gone to your local gym and signed up for the first class available, then it might not be appropriate for you. A healthy individual will find pilates challenging, and they are doing it for strength and fitness. With recent or previous back pain, you are doing pilates for rehabilitation. This is a slightly different recipe.

As always, the body will go through the path of least resistance….too hard means your back will go back to its old habits to complete the exercise putting undue stress on you and perhaps re-injuring.

As we all know, there is good and bad in every profession, same goes for pilates. There will be very intuitive instructors, who will provide individual correction and feedback, work at the appropriate levels, and provide alternatives to each exercise depending on your level. Conversely, there will be the instructor who stays at the front of a 30 person class, providing no feedback, working through their rigidly rehearsed regime.

So What Should I do?

Ideally, if you’ve had pain you should be assessed first by your physiotherapist, then undertake an initial individual session (more if necessary) with the instructor to learn the basics and make sure that your level is safe for a class environment. This way, they know where your weakness are, this allows you to ask any questions if you need to, outside of an intimidating class environment.

Lastly, if the class is too big you can be sure that it will be too difficult for the instructor to provide the ideal amount of feedback and attention to each individual. This is like driving a convertible in Ireland…It doesn’t make sense!!

Suggestions for class size under my training were about 12-14 maximum. It may be useful to ask how big the class is before signing up.

Conclusion to Pilates as Treatment for Back Pain

A very well progressed patient of mine, who is continuing to work through debilitating back pain had been to many different classes after being told by 3 separate GP’s to “just go do pilates”. She suffered through a previous 6 weeks of Pilates where she was consistently uncomfortable, unable to complete very many of the exercises, and was eventually told by the instructor that she didn't know what to do with her. This as you can imagine, was very discouraging.

This is the experience in Pilates that is definitely on the NO side of the issue.

She has completed most of her hands on physiotherapy treatment and is continuing a course of pilates with myself (after being assessed individually with the exercises). She is progressing well and feeling empowered by her new found strength.

She has said it best when she explained that despite her GP’s advice of “just doing pilates”, she has now realised the difference this time was that we have worked together to teach her “how to do pilates”. With knowing what she’s supposed to feel and working at the very basics before progressing she has come farther and progressed more than she’d ever had before.

So if you are thinking of taking up Pilates as a form of treatment for Back Pain make sure that you are physically ready for the class and that your physio has given the “Go ahead” for it. Caution needs to be taken to avoid the choice of re-injuring yourself. Danielle  Mah , today’s author works in our Barrow Street clinic. Danielle Mah specialises in musculoskeletal injuriesdry needling,sports injuriessports and deep tissue massage, exercise prescription and performance, women’s health . If you would like to make an appointment with Danielle you can contact us here.

Here at The Physio Company, we have great skill and expertise at treating back pain, for information click here

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