Surviving Back Pain with Pilates

As people age, back pain is very likely to be on the list of the things that cause the most discomfort. (It certainly is on my top five!) Back pains result to frequent visits to the doctor and cause many people to miss work.

The muscle aches, numbness or stabbing sensations can be gradually improved by home treatment and self-care.

Age and lack of exercise are just some of the factors that cause back pains. When the core muscles are weak and unused, they contribute to back problems.

Doing heavy lifts, bending, or straightening require abdominal muscles to work with back muscles. Having a weak core makes one prone to back problems.

Intro to Pilates

Having a weak core or abdominal muscles, certainly, had been a challenge for me. I became determined to try many cardio exercises to lose my belly fat. When I found the courage to try Pilates, my body responded positively without bringing myself to exhaustion.

The reason I stayed on with Pilates is one of the main things that the system emphasizes – developing the body’s core which includes the abdominals, hips, gluteals and lower back.

Pilates is a system of strengthening and stretching exercises which prove helpful forms of self-care exercises especially to those with chronic back pains.

The Principles of Pilates and My Discovery

Pilates programs are hinged on nine principles. The six original principles are breathing, concentration, control, precision, flow and centering. The other three principles are balanced muscle development, whole body movement and relaxation.

1. Breathing

This is very important in Pilates as every movement requires inhalation and exhalation. There are breathing techniques designed to help muscle activation. What I’ve learned to do is maintaining to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth before and during the exercise.

This technique is called the rib cage or costal breathing. I observed that my rib cage expands when I inhale and my transversus abdominis and obliques contract as I exhale.

2. Concentration

The principle of concentration means there is intention in every movement. Pilates demands focus and feel of the way every exercise is done.

3. Control

This is based on the idea of muscle control. Controlling your movements mean that you maintain proper form, alignment and effort.

4. Centering

Centering, on the other hand, involves visualizing that all movements come from your abdominal muscles. In my Pilates classes, concentration, control and centering help me develop my body awareness.

My muscles respond better when I am able to concentrate my thoughts and center my movements to my core while maintaining my proper form.

5. Flow/Rhythm

The principle of flow or rhythm requires that exercises are performed with grace.

6. Precision

Precision maintains that every exercise should be performed with emphasis on proper form. Simple and precise movements make an effective exercise. When I was starting out, I realized that precision and flow takes time to become good at.

Therefore, it is not necessary to be perfect on the first try. Simple movements can be precise and have good rhythm when you apply first four principles well.

7. Balanced Muscle Development

This ensures that exercises done on one side of the body must also be performed on the other. Exercises involving your right arm, must also be done with your left.

8. Whole Body Movement

This engages the entire body through breathing, core exercise, and the use of both arms and legs.

9. Relaxation

Lastly, Relaxation ensures that there is no tension before any exercise is done. Following these nine Pilates principles will make for an effective exercise with no effort and time wasted.

Results of Continuous Pilates

After attending Pilates classes of up to three times a week, I noticed in myself an increase in body strength, balance, and flexibility. I now have a better posture and I can do a proper breathing technique with ease.

The occurrence of my back pains became minimal. I can also perform more physical activities that were used to be limited by my back pains.

Different Apparatus    

I was once intimidated by the different Pilates apparatus. I used to just pass by Pilates gyms and look through the windows thinking the movements are way over my head. Then I found that mat and apparatus work can all be adjusted to suit different levels of fitness abilities.

The Reformer is the most common Pilates apparatus. There are also Cadillacs, Wunda Chairs, Spine Correctors and Ladder Barrels. The workouts for these are less intimidating than their names.

The Future

Pilates is for people of all ages. There are classes for beginners and for the elite athletes. I recently read online about this fitness combo called Yoglates, which combines Yoga, Calisthenics and Pilates. This might be a fun way to make Pilates more appealing to people who are scared to try.

Pilates can be a warm up to a rigid exercise or it can be a good ending to a workout day full of lifts or sprints. In the future, new trends involving Pilates might pop up here and there but the positive effects of Pilates to body, especially for relieving some back pains, remain the same.


View all posts by

Leave a Reply