Oh My Aching Back

One false move and we end up with an aching back.

It seems the holiday season brings out the worst in our bodies. It’s too easy to overindulge by eating too much, drinking too much and skimping on sleep & exercise. One false move and we end up with an aching back.

Low back pain is extremely common in the US. It can be the result of serious medical conditions such as lumbar disc herniation or spinal stenosis. Or it can be the every day garden variety of low back pain that results from poor posture and inefficient movement patterns. Always see your physician before starting a new exercise program but Pilates helps many conditions resulting in low back pain. To get the best results, work with a certified trainer two to three times per week. It takes about eight weeks to feel substantial relief in your back pain.

Pilates helps by

  1. Improving posture
  2. Strengthening core musculature
  3. Increasing flexibility
  4. Enhancing neuromuscular control

Poor posture results in abnormal wear and tear on the spine. Your mother was right when she told you to sit up straight. Maintaining the natural curve in the low back puts the spine in the most efficient position for weight bearing. If you sit at a computer all day with your spine bowed in a C-shape, your back is going to protest.

Strengthening the deep muscles of the abdomen and pelvis stabilize the spine. Exercises that include side bending and rotation help to strengthen the obliques (part of the abdominal muscles). Cues to “pull up on the pelvic floor” activate the pelvic musculature contributing to pelvic stability.

Low Back Pain

Clients with low back pain frequently have tight and weak muscles over the hips and buttocks (glutes). This results in disordered movement patterns especially involving the legs. A classic test is to lie stretched out on your stomach and lift or extend one leg into the air. Rather than using the glutes to lift the leg, clients with low back pain will compensate by using the low back to lift the leg resulting in pain or discomfort in the low back.

Inflexibility in the spine contributes to low back pain. The lower back is more flexible than the upper back. Clients with rounded shoulders and weak upper back muscles overcompensate by using their low back for movements requiring extension of the spine. The spine needs to be able to move freely for flexion, extension, side bending and rotation.

Many clients tell us pilates translates into their daily life. They gain a better understanding of their bodies and how they should move over time-a process called neuromuscular control. They “hear” us correcting posture while sitting at the computer or driving a car. As the core muscles become stronger and the spine gains flexibility, it becomes easier to maintain efficient posture and movement patterns. With consistent effort, your back will feel better in a short amount of time.

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