In our previous post we talked about the benefits of a regular Pilates practice when it comes to back pain. In this post, we are going to break down some simple Pilates exercises you can do to help with your back pain. These exercises primarily focus on building up strength in your pelvic floor. Your deep core muscles–as opposed to your superficial abdominal muscles–provide vital support for your spine. The stronger they are, the less work your back muscles have to do. This means less aggravation and pain for your back.
Tips for Activating Your Pelvic Floor
Do each exercise slowly and with control. If you are new to Pilates, just pay attention to keeping your back in alignment for the duration of the movement. Be aware if you have a more dominant side and correct your positioning accordingly. If you already have some experience doing Pilates, incorporate breathing into each task. Typically, you will inhale to prepare and exhale to engage the deep core muscles of your body. Inhale through your nose and exhale through gently pursed lips. Think of pushing your breath out with a bit if force on your exhale. As you do so, draw your belly button up and in toward your spine.
Pelvic Floor Exercises to Reduce Back Pain
Start lying on your back on a cushioned surface. A Pilates or thick yoga mat will work well. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart on the floor. Take a deep inhale. As you exhale, draw your belly button down toward your spine and lift up through your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is made up of the muscles you use to stop yourself from going pee. Think of squeezing them to activate them. Once you have exhaled all your air out, inhale to release and relax the belly and pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvis will return to a neutral position.
When you focus on the action of drawing your belly button inward and your pelvic floor upward, your pelvis tilts on its own. This is a really subtle movement. It might even feel like your pelvis is not moving at all. As long as you are squeezing your belly and pelvic floor, you are doing it right.
If you want to add another challenge, use a ChiBall underneath your hips. These slightly deflated exercise balls will require you to stabilize a bit more. So your movements will be even more controlled. Whatever variation you choose to do, focus on quality over quantity. Set a timer for two minutes and do however many repetitions you can in that time.
Set up just as you did for the pelvic tilt. Feet hip-width apart and parallel with your arms pointing down towards your heels. Take a big inhale and as you exhale pull your belly button down towards the floor as you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Now continue to exhale as you lift the hips and roll up through your spine. Once you have reached your shoulders, take an inhale. Keep your pelvic floor muscles engaged while you do so. Now roll back down your spine until your hips touch the ground. Inhale to release.
Just like the pelvic tilt, move slowly and notice if your hips are dropping side to side. Your two hip bones should stay as level as possible. You can gently engage your glutes as you lift up your hips. However, avoid any squeezing of your glutes; you want your core muscles to do the work. Again, set a timer for two minutes and do however many repetitions you can in that time.
Set up this exercise the same way you set up your pelvic tilt and pelvic roll up. Inhale to prepare and exhale to move into your pelvic tilt. Keep your pelvic floor engaged and your belly drawing down towards your spine. One at a time, lift your bent legs up so your shins are parallel to the ceiling. Your knees should be at 90° angles. Keep those pelvic floor muscles working. Now lift just your shoulders off the floor. Focus your gaze on the space between you knees to keep your neck supported. Reach your fingertips toward the wall that you are looking at. With your palms facing downward and your elbows straight, begin to pump the arms up and down. It is as if you are gently tapping something that is a couple of inches below your palms.
Do 100 repetitions exhaling on every downward pump of the arms. The movement of the arms should be roughly one pump per second. Only go as quickly as you can while maintaining core engagement. If your neck begins to strain, interlace your fingers behind your skull. Use your breath to keep the pace. One breath per arm pump. When you are finished, release your shoulders down to the ground first. Then, bring the feet one at a time to the floor before releasing your pelvic floor.
Less than 6 Minutes a Day
These exercises are most effective when performed every day or every other day. They take less than 6 minutes to do, so there is no reason not to make time for them in your day. Despite being very subtle, these three Pilates exercises will do wonders to build up your core strength. Strong pelvic floor and core muscles mean a happy back. A happy back means you can spend the other minutes in your day focusing on enjoying a pain-free life.