Back pain is a widespread issue many adults face, and many causes can trigger it. The severity and type of back pain depend on several factors, including lifestyle, activity level, or posture. Fortunately, Pilates has been shown to reduce all kinds of back pain when appropriately performed, potentially eliminating back pain altogether with regular practice. Below are seven reasons why Pilates reduces back pain.
1.Pilates Mobilizes the Spine
As Joseph Pilates famously said, "You are only as young as your spine is flexible." Back pain can creep up if one's spine is stiff and underutilized, often caused by poor back mechanics, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyles, or poor posture, among other things. Pilates facilitates the movement of the spine in all the directions it's designed to move in, which helps alleviate back stiffness and promotes increased spinal mobility.
2 Pilates Decompresses the Spine
The spine is placed under stressful loads throughout the day, from sitting for long periods, driving, carrying groceries, picking up kids, and even poor posture. All those things plus gravity's effects throughout the day cause the sponge-like discs between our vertebrae to compress. Too much compression can cause back pain and other issues such as bulging discs or disc herniations, along with tingling, numbness, or pain caused by excess pressure on the spinal nerves. Pilates promotes spinal elongation throughout many of its exercises (often heard in the form of cues like, "sit tall," or "lengthen your spine"), and many practitioners report feeling taller after a Pilates session.
3. Pilates Releases Tight Muscles That Cause Back Pain
Tight muscles in the back are not the only culprits in causing back pain. Back pain can also be due to tightness in the hips, legs, shoulders, chest, or neck. One of the many elements of Pilates training is stretching and eccentric conditioning (strengthening muscles in a lengthened state), so that muscles can be both flexible and robust. Some Pilates sessions may also incorporate self-myofascial release work using a foam roller or small, dense ball to further release tight muscles in various areas of the body.
4. Pilates Strengthens Core and Back Muscles
A weak core is often cited as a common cause of back pain, especially in the low back. Besides, upper back, neck, and shoulder pain tend to be caused by overusing the upper trapezius muscles while underutilizing other critical muscles in the back. Pilates can be classified as resistance strength training, using special machines or one's bodyweight as resistance. It emphasizes the engagement of the core muscles and special breathing techniques to access these muscles on a much deeper level. Pilates also teaches practitioners how to strengthen all the other muscles in their back to learn to use these muscles when needed, instead of relying on the upper trapezius to do all the work.
5. Pilates Increases Spinal Stability
In addition to being able to mobilize the spine, it is also essential to stabilize it during certain times as well. Lack of spinal stability, especially when weight-bearing, can cause poor movement mechanics, back pain, and potentially other damage. By teaching some of the aspects mentioned above, like elongating the spine and engaging the deep core muscles, Pilates helps practitioners learn how to stabilize their spine properly.
6. Pilates Corrects Muscle Imbalances
Often back pain is due to some muscle imbalance in the body, whether it's from things like having a dominant side, always carrying a purse on one shoulder or a baby on one hip, only rotating the body in one direction when playing golf, recovering from an injury where muscles have atrophied on one side, having a job that requires repetitive motions, or poor posture that has caused one side of the body to be overly tight while the other side becomes weak. Pilates emphasizes working muscles evenly and in proper alignment to help correct muscle imbalances that may be causing back pain.
7. Pilates Improves Posture
Poor posture can lead to muscle imbalances, a weak core, muscle tightness, and extra-spinal compression--all common causes of back pain. Pilates promotes proper body alignment during exercises, which helps even out muscle imbalances and teaches good posture. Also, Pilates strengthens weak muscles and releases tight muscles that may be aiding in poor posture habits, creating a more balanced body. Good posture technique helps prevent or reduce back pain while also providing a solid base for more efficient movement patterns.
Those who suffer from back pain should consult with their doctor before beginning a new exercise program, as some back pain may be the result of a more serious issue.