Battling Back Pain With Pilates

by pilates32 on August 27, 2011

It is said that 80% of us will at some time in our lives experience some kind of lower back pain. The cause of this may be for several reasons and because of the high degree of pain we can find ourselves experiencing, we choose to avoid all matters of exercise or physical movement that we feel may make the situation worse. I once heard someone say that absence of exercise is not always the solution. In other words, when we find ourselves experiencing injury and pain we rest and avoid exercise until the pain goes away. The problem here is; there may still be a problem. Resting the area of pain provides a short term fix for something that requires much more consideration and correction.

Lower back pain in many cases is unique to each individual. In some cases it is the result of incorrect lifting or a sudden movement that sent the muscles around your spine into a spasm. But for some, on-going back pain is the result of bad behaviour patterns in everyday living, or muscle imbalances around the hips, abdominals, and lower back and upper legs. In simple terms, something is pulling something out of place. This is not unusual in many people. In many cases it’s not your fault. We are so caught up these days in how we look, rather than how we live and perform in life that we will put our bodies through extreme fitness regimes without any consideration for stretching, core training and exercises such as Pilates. We don’t think to keep ourselves injury free! I’m not saying don’t work hard to look amazing; I’m all for that! I’m saying along the way; keep yourself supple, flexible and upright. Protect your posture, your back and your joints.

Lower back pain in some instances is caused by incorrect posture and an incorrect position of the pelvis. Throughout your day it is important to maintain a good tall posture, with a neutral spine placement of the pelvis, meaning a natural curvature of the spine that is optimal for everyday living. Various activities can cause muscle imbalance to pull our pelvis out of neutral placement and in turn put strain on our lower back. Take for example the guy who does nothing but 500 sit-ups a day in an attempt to get a six pack. Over training of the rectus abdominus will shorten his abdominals and highlight major weakness is his lower back muscle; the erector spinae. Over time, this guy will end up developing a posterior tilt of the pelvis and quite a horrible posture.

My aim here is not to waffle on about all the types of posture and the countless reasons why they can occur. Instead I want to share just a few tips that you can add in to your training schedule to keep your back injury free. Firstly, stretch both your hamstrings and your hip flexors. Keeping these reduce their influence on your posture and pelvic placement. Second; mobilise your hips with hip circles and side leg lifts as shown in the various video series here at Pilates 32. Build strong gluteals with shoulder bridge variations and a strong psoas muscle (that which is responsible for lifting your knee to your chest). Thirdly practice both spinal extension and flexion. Many of us flex for the six pack but forget to train our back muscles in the other direction. This need not be as intense, fast or of such a great range of motion. Performing moves such as the swan dive and swimming at their lowest levels (with the hands kept on the floor) will begin to build this strength and relieve some pain you may be experiencing. Finally mobilise your thoracic spine with some rotational work, using exercises such as spine twists, standing and seated.

Remember when dealing with back pain, prevention is better than the cure. If you haven’t experienced any back problems yet, put a routine Pilates schedule in place to protect yourself from future injury. If you have had problems, start using Pilates to help. This is why the lower level series Injury and Pain Free Back was created. To help people eradicate back problems and begin building a stronger and better posture. If you are confused by any of the exercise names mentioned above, don’t worry their just names. All these exercises are covered in fine detail in many of the Pilates 32 series’. The videos also give several progressions from a low beginner to intermediate to an advance. Make sure you take a look at the clip below. This clip taken from the 1st video of the Injury and Pain Free Back Series, demonstrates how a shoulder bridge can help build core stability and improve posture.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below. I’d love to help you out.

Author: Ian Harris

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

hotshot bald cop August 30, 2011 at 7:17 am

Thank you for a great post.

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bernie March 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Truly grateful for the valuable info :)

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