Pilates is a practice that aims to improve postural awareness and strength, making it especially helpful for anyone with back pain. Pilates exercises to relieve back pain tend to focus on creating neutral alignment in the spine and working to strengthen deep postural muscles.
If you have back pain stemming from instability in your spine and degenerative disc or joint problems, pilates may be just the ticket. Getting your spine back in alignment and stronger can help decrease further wear and tear and relieve stress on your joints and spinal discs.
The same is true for pain resulting from tight hip flexors as strengthening your core muscles can help relieve tension in your hip flexors and alleviate back pain.
As always, it is important to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen. Try to find a pilates teacher who specializes in spinal health and who will know a range of pilates exercises to relieve back pain.
Pilates originated in ballet and other forms of dance, and some of the exercises can be quite challenging, even if you don’t have back pain. This means that it is wise to take things slow and exercise caution. If you feel pain at any point, stop and reassess the movement, consulting a qualified pilates instructor as needed.
Pilates Exercises to Relieve Back Pain
A Short Pilates Workout for the Lower Back
1. Basic Starting Position
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath. As you breathe out, sink your hands towards the floor and create what is known as the C-curve from your pubic bone to your navel (belly button). Hold this position.
2. Knee Lifts
Hold the starting position and slowly bring one of your knees up towards your hip. Gently lower that leg and repeat with the other leg. Try to maintain the C-curve as you repeat the exercise.
3. Double Knee Lift
Moving on from the single knee lifts, you’re now going to bring both knees up towards your hips. Hold the position and make sure to maintain or resume the C-curve position, with your back flat to the floor.
4. Leg Extensions
From the double knee lift position, extend one leg out along the floor (but not touching the floor). Bring the leg back up to the starting position (i.e. knee over hip) and extend the other leg out. Repeat this in a cycling motion while keeping your core muscles engaged. There should be no tension in your neck as you do this exercise. If there is, make sure that you still have your C-curve position, as this forms the strong core to support the movement.
5. Neck Lift and Knee Stretch
If you have cervical spine issues, sit this one out unless supervised by a professional.
From the position in 4. bring your neck and shoulders up off your mat and put your hands just below your knee, drawing your knee a little closer to your shoulders over the hip. Make sure to keep your ribs and lower back to the mat. Repeat with the other leg, again, in the cycling motion.
Deeper Pilates Workout for the Lower Back
For anyone who wants to kick the challenge up a notch, get yourself a soft pilates ball. Place this under your lower back, just between your hip bones. Now repeat the pilates exercises for back pain 1 through 4. The ball creates instability in the lower back, making it more of a workout to keep those deep core muscles engaged.
You might also want to try these 4 yoga poses for back pain relief!