Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pilates for Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common ailment that leads many to discover Pilates and its many benefits.  But what really causes back pain?  Most of it is weak core muscles and poor posture habits.  Once these are corrected many of my clients notice half the amount of pain within a few months.

Much of Pilates is done lying down and low impact which is gentle to your spine.  This will help to decompress and elongate the vertebra.  The Method has many ways to modify each exercise if pain does occur.  Breathing deeply, as done in Pilates, will help to relieve stress, promote better circulation and relax tight muscles.

One factor to focus on with this client is their tight or weak hamstrings.  Clients with desk jobs will often have this problem.  Their quads and hip flexors are doing much of the work in daily habits such as walking.  To strengthen the hamstrings and inner thigh do exercises such as Leg Springs on the Cadillac, Leg Series on the small barrels, Standing Pumping on the chair or Breathing on the Cadillac.  Than add in more stretches such as Ballet stretches on the barrel, Hamstring stretch/leg circles with a band, Tree on reformer or ladder barrel, Roll Downs off the wall, and Washerwoman on the chair.

Articulation of the spine will help to decompress and create space in the spine.  Make sure to do some fundamentals such as Pelvic Clock (tailbone tucks and arch) or Knee Sways prior as a diagnosis of their range of movement.  Build in body awareness and pelvic stability for the client slowly each session.  Exercises such as Bridge, Roll Up, Roll Back on the Cadillac, Rolling like a Ball, and Short Spine Massage on the reformer will become smoother with practice.  Breathe deeply into the tight spots of the spine to help these movements flow better.

Lastly, posture work is essential to promote functional stability and strength.  It also makes great homework since they can do it anywhere and for several hours in between sessions.  Short Box Series or Standing work with the Magic Circle is best to teach body awareness.  Have your client show you their "normal" posture while seated and standing (let them be honest, you will be shocked at how daily posture has shaped their currently alignment issues).  Educate on the importance of correct alignment and the stress on the body when done wrong.  Good posture will allow your body to burn more calories, breathe better, strengthen your core muscles and protect your spine.  

*Check with your doctor that Pilates is safe and always work with a well certified instructor with experience.

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