Pilates and Back Pain

Pilates is another great exercise for relieving back pain because it focuses on strengthening your core muscles, which include the back. Pilates exercises are very smooth and controlled movements, so there is little danger of getting injured while exercising.

Its also a great way work on your strength and flexibility, both of which help to alleviate back pain. However, as with yoga, you should avoid any extreme twisting or bending movements. Also as with yoga, Pilates exercises should be done on a mat or other soft, supportive surface.

One of the best benefits of Pilates is that it helps improve posture, a common cause of lower back pain. Use common sense when doing Pilates; if exercises that arch your back hurt, don’t do those. Or if exercises that round your back hurt, do only the back arching ones.

The following Pilates exercises benefit the spine and are appropriate for beginners. Do each exercise slowly and smoothly, and repeat ten times if you can. The key to pilates is quality of exercise, not quantity; it is more important to do fewer exercises slowly and correctly than to do all ten repetitions quickly.

THE HUNDRED

Start by lying on your back with your legs either stretched out or bent at the knees, whichever is most comfortable. Raise your head and, if you can, your legs off the floor a few inches. If this puts too much stress on your lower back, just raise your head and keep your feet on the floor with your knees bent. Try to keep your neck relaxed. Now extend your arms, and raise and lower them about two inches. While doing this, inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of five.

SPINE STRETCH FORWARD

Sit with legs extended in front of you and slightly more than hip width apart and feet flexed. Inhale and pretend that you are hovering over an imaginary beach ball by leaning your upper body forward, arms extended, while rounding your back and pulling in your abdomen. Exhale as you sit back up slowly one vertebra at a time.

The ROLLUP

Begin by lying on your back, legs extended, and arms stretched above your head with your shoulders on the floor. Alternately, you may want to do this exercise with your feet on the floor, knees bent. Inhale and lift your arms toward the ceiling. Exhale and roll your torso forward, as if you are doing a full body sit-up. You should ideally roll into a sitting position, but if you cant, just bring your torso as far off the mat as you comfortably can before returning to your starting position.

The SAW

Sit with your legs slightly wider than hip width, feet flexed. Your arms should be extended straight out to the side. Sit up very straight as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head. Exhale; turn your body to the left, keeping your arms in line with your shoulders, and bend over as if your hand is going to saw off your little toe. Inhale, return slowly to your original position, and repeat on the other side.

SPINE TWIST

Sit with your legs slightly more than hip width apart and your arms extended out to the sides. Inhale, tighten your abs, and sit up very straight as if you are trying to touch your head to the ceiling. Now exhale and turn to the right as far as you comfortably can. This exercise is to increase your back mobility only, so do not stretch your back muscles. Inhale and return to your starting position. Repeat on the left side.

BALLERINA ARMS

Sit with legs crossed and spine straight, as if you were sitting against an imaginary wall. Bend the elbows at a 90-degree angle and pull the arms back so that the shoulder blades are touching. Next take your arms down so that the shoulder blades slide down the spine. Next raise the arms over the head as a ballerina would. Return arms to starting position.

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