Back pain can be extremely debilitating and can affect normal day-to-day activities and lead not only to physical trauma but emotional trauma. I have had a client tell me that they were just reaching to pick up a toothbrush and their back went into spasm and they ended up in excruciating pain.
It is said that 90% of individuals will experience an episode of back pain in their lifetimes; fortunately, Pilates as an amplifier of wellbeing and rehabilitation exercise is becoming increasingly popular to prevent and manage not only back pain but other types of pain in general.
Pilates treats each vertebra as an individual bone, encouraging them to stack on top of one another in the correct alignment and sequencing of the spine. This encourages more natural and spontaneous movement and allows us to move in a more natural way in which we were designed to do. Pilates creates an energy-efficient body and applies six main principles to build on strength and precision, improve mobility and alleviate pain:
Precision in your technique will come with time spent, in a refined manner, on each movement - it is an element encouraged by concentration, correct form, and the effective use of muscles. Precision encourages an awareness in movement which will work to make you more in touch with your body. Upon lifting an item, you will subconsciously engage your lower back muscles and abdominals in a way that will support your spine and ultimately lessen any chance of injury.
Repeatedly challenging your body with exercising movements will promote control through muscle strengthening and stabilising. Control is less about the intensity or speed of the exercise you are performing, and more about slow,safe and controlled movements. Refinement of motor control (the synchronisation between the brain and muscles) will also encourage more effective spontaneous muscle recruitment - supporting the spine and lessening the likelihood of injury.
When we hold our breath, our spine becomes rigid and stiff. Pilates breathing encourages fluid movement through the spine and other joints and promotes correct muscle activation. Inhalation, when performing certain movements, reduces pressure on the spine's discs and helps to elongate and strengthen the torso area. Additionally, focusing on breathing encourages mindfulness of the body and its posture.
Centering is often referred to as the ‘powerhouse’ and is the connection between the lower and upper body. With each Pilates move our minds are connected with the control achieved by our centre. Centering provides a strong base of stability and support - ultimately alleviating pain, improving strength and improved posture.
Concentration is a vital factor in being in touch with both your body and mind. Development of concentration and awareness will enable your body to subconsciously better its form - opposing parts of your body will sync and work together for everyday activities such as lifting items. Your instructor will correct your alignment which will help distribute the work evenly throughout the body which will subsequently reduce strain across the back, thus improving how you approach tasks and lessening the chances of an injury.
The flow of movement refers to the controlled and graceful transition from one pilates motion to the next. The combined improvement of strength and balance will enable a participant to follow the choreography of exercise to transcend through to their everyday.
Pilates is a miraculous, low-impact exercise - encouraged specifically for those suffering from back pain. Upon mastering your technique and continually practicing the pivotal principles, the muscles supporting the spine will be strengthened and elevated from any discomfort and limitations in mobility. Furthermore, the body will subconsciously apply the principles learned and practiced in Pilates to day-to-day activities. Increased muscular strength, combined with the awareness of posture, will significantly decrease the likelihood of an individual worsening their injury or hurting themselves again; ultimately improving their overall wellbeing.