Pilates and Lower Back Pain
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a well-defined exercise system designed to stretch, strengthen and balance the body.
The system is named after Joseph Pilates, who originally developed the program in early 1900s for the improvement of his own health and also of his fellow World War I internees.
The key principles of the Pilates exercise system are:
Use of mental focus to improve movement efficiency and muscle control Awareness of the neutral spine alignment or proper posture, throughout the exercises Development of the back and abdomen muscles to support this posture Using breath to promote mental focusing and centering Creating strength, length and flexibility in muscles
The most common Pilates equipment used include the Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda Chair.
Pilates and Lower Back Pain
Pain in the lower back is the most common cause of job-related disabilities in the Untied States. Pilates is now one of the most effective treatment options for lower back pain, reports Shirley Archer, JD, MA, IDEA member since 1988 and a certified yoga and Pilates teacher.
A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, reports that participants who practiced Pilates over a 4-week period experienced greater relief from the symptoms as compared to those who went through typical treatment programs. The main reason behind this is that the Pilates regimen strengthens the core muscles, prominently including the back.
Besides, the Pilates regimen helps lower back pain mainly due to the fact that it follows very smooth and controlled movements, exposing the patient to minimal injuries. Pilates considerably enhances the strength and flexibility in the body, both of which are extremely important in alleviating back pain.
Above all, Pilates helps in correcting the posture, which is most important for relief from back pain.
Other benefits of Pilates include:
Increased lung capacity Better circulation through deep breathing Improved strength and flexibility of the abdomen and back muscles Enhancement of muscle and mental coordination Improvement in posture and balance Enhances overall control over the body
The Pilates exercises for lower back pain listed below are based on the principle of quality. Those performing the exercises should concentrate on first performing slowly but in a correct manner.
Once done, each of these should be repeated 10 times in a session.
1) The Hundred
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out or bent at the knees. Raise your head and legs off the floor a few inches. Try to keep your neck relaxed and extend your arms. Raise and lower them about two inches, inhaling and exhaling to the count of five.
2) Spine Stretch Forward
Sit comfortably with legs extended in the front and slightly more than hip width apart and feet flexed. Now inhale and pretend to hover over a fictitious beach ball, leaning your upper body forward, arms extended. Round your back and pull in your abdomen as you do this. Exhale slowly as you sit back slowly, one vertebra at a time.
3) The Rollup Exercise
Lie on your back, with legs extended and arms stretched above your head, keeping your shoulders on the floor. Inhale and lift our arms towards the ceiling. Now, exhale and roll your torso forward, as if you are doing a full body sit-up.
4) The Saw Exercise
Sit with legs stretched wider than hip width, feet flexed. Extend your arms straight out to the ceiling. Sit up straight as if trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head. Exhale and turn your body to the left, keeping your arms in line with your shoulders. Try to bend as if your hand is going to saw off your little toe.
5) Spine Twist
Sit with your legs slightly more than hip width apart and arms extended out to the sides. Now inhale, tighten your abs and sit up straight, as if you are trying to touch your head to the ceiling. Once done, exhale and turn to the right as far as you comfortably can.
6) Ballerina Arms
Sit with legs crossed and spine straight, as if sitting against an imaginary wall. Bend the elbows at a 90 angle and pull the arms back, so that the shoulder blades are touching. Now raise the arms over the head as a ballerina would do. Once done, return arms to the starting position.
It is important to keep the following considerations in mind before starting on a Pilates program for low back pain:
Consult your primary heath care provider. Ensure that your Pilates instructor has received due training in the Pilates exercise program and he/she understands specific back issues. Avoid exercises that push the spine into extremes of flexion or extension. Ensure that there are no extreme twisting or bending movements involved Use only soft and supportive surfaces, such as soft exercise mats Refrain from exercises that arch or round your back and hurt Avoid physical as well as mental fatigue