Pilates helps chronic low back pain

If you have a chronic stiff and achy back, it is highly likely that pilates exercise will help. If back pain limits you from playing the sports you love (like golf), pilates exercise will allow you to play harder and longer. If your chronic pain is due to specific medical diagnoses such as herniated discs or spondylolithesis, pilates exercise can help to alleviate disability in activities of daily living. Pilates is not appropriate for the treatment of acute back pain. Always get your Physician’s permission to start a new exercise program.

At LNK Pilates Studio, we see clients with chronic low back pain due to a variety of causes including herniated discs, lumbar stenosis, scoliosis, spondylolithesis, degenerative joint disease and nonspecific mechanical causes. Therapy is aimed at strengthening the muscles that support the spine, lengthening and strengthening opposing muscles groups, restoring functional flexibility and enhancing neuromuscular coordination.

Let’s take them one at a time. The first goal is to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. Muscles protect the joints from moving past an acceptable range of motion. Core muscles stabilize the spine, and the shoulder & hip girdles. Core muscles protect all the little joints that make up the entire length of the spine including the low back. Without a strong core, the back is much more vulnerable to shear and compressive forces from athletic endeavors or from activities of daily living.

The second goal is to lengthen and strengthen opposing muscle groups and restore posture and balance. A balanced spine wears well. Postural imbalances that cause stress in the spine create aberrant movement patterns. Over time, accumulative stresses and strains result in degenerative joint disease and disability. It is never too late to work on your posture.

The third goal is to restore functional flexibility to the spine. The spine needs to move efficiently through flexion, extension, rotation and side bending. Finally, Pilates exercise helps you to better understand how your body should move properly (neuromuscular coordination) in order to prevent further acute back episodes.

For treatment of chronic back pain, we recommend 50 minute sessions twice a week. Some cessation of discomfort is frequently seen within a month of starting pilates exercise, but three to six months is generally needed to functionally improve core strength.

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