If you’re suffering from back pain, Pilates can help. Unlike the majority of strength training exercises, Pilates routines are structured around the concepts of healing and rehabilitation. During the First World War, its inventor Joseph Pilates used it as therapy for injured war veterans to regain strength, and when Pilates crossed over to the United States in the 1920s, its first audience were ballerinas who wanted to get back into dancing after an injury. More recently, Pilates has been used to manage scoliosis as well.
Here are some Pilates exercises you can try to relieve pain and strengthen your muscles:
Pelvic tilt to pelvic curl
An exercise that uses abdominal muscles to support the lower back, the pelvic tilt to pelvic curl is used to treat or make lower back pain more tolerable.
- Lie on your back in neutral spine position, meaning your lower back should not be pressed onto the mat. Bend your knees so your soles lay flat on the floor. Maintain a hip-distance between your feet. Inhale.
- Exhale as you do a pelvic tilt. You do the pelvic tilt by pulling abdominal muscles in and pressing the lower spine onto the mat, as if you’re being pulled towards the mat by your belly button. Your shoulder or upper back shouldn’t rise. Continue rolling onto the mat and only stop when the entirety of your lower back is touching the floor, i.e. the whole expanse of your back is lying against the surface.
- Inhale. It’s time to do the pelvic curl, which is the opposite of pelvic tilt. If the latter entails pulling back your spine, the former requires you to push it out. Begin to curl up your tailbone towards the ceiling, followed by the hips, the lower spine, and the middle spine. The line from your shoulders to your knees should be angled 45 degrees away from the flow, nothing more.
- Exhale as you prepare to go to the neutral spine position using your abdominal control: start lowering your upper back, then your spine, vertebra by vertebra.
- Inhale as you release to neutral spine.
- Repeat 3–5 times.
This easy exercise stretches the back and relieves tension.
- Kneel on your mat with your heels under your butt.
- While keeping your toes together, open your knees so that there is a hip-distance between them.
- Slowly lean forward and drape your body over your thighs until your forehead reaches the floor.
- Stretch both your arms in front of you.
- Inhale and exhale. Take your time to release tension; relax into the stretch.
This exercise stretches the front and back hamstrings while engaging the abdominal muscles.
- Sit up so that your back forms a 90-degree angle from the floor. You are facing forward, your shoulders relaxed. Your legs are straight in front of you, the tip of your toes pointing to the ceiling. If you need to modify this exercise because your hamstrings are tight, you can bend your knees or sit on a towel/pillow.
- Inhale and extend your arms out until they are at shoulder height. You can also plant your fingertips between your legs for a modified version.
- Exhale while you lean forward and create a C-curve with your spine. Your abdominal muscles — not your back — should support your midsection as you curve forward.
- Continue lengthening your spine until your fingers reach your toes.
- Inhale and enjoy the stretch.
- Exhale as you return to the starting position by engaging your lower abdominals to pull your pelvis up, then your lower back, then each vertebra until your shoulders are upright.
Back pain can be caused by different things: muscle strain because of lifting heavy objects, muscle fatigue due to sitting in front of the computer all day, or a medical condition like skeletal irregularity. Manage your pain, strengthen your back, and expand your range of motion by doing Pilates. If you’re in Boston or Dedham, book a class at C2 Pilates today. We have Pilates classes daily, handled only by our most trusted instructors.