It’s thought 4 out of 5 of us experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, such a large number of people need lower back pain relief that it accounts for 9% of all adult GP visits. For some of us, lower back pain could be a simple ache which improves quickly. However, for others, it can be a much longer-term problem.
Back pain can stem from a very long list of causes with sprains as well as strains on one end, herniated discs as well as fractures on the other end. Less serious—and more usual—culprits include daily habits such as poor posture, slouching when you’re seated at your desk, and lugging a heavy purse on one shoulder.
Fortunately, in many of the cases the best medicine isn’t surgery or pills. It’s Pilates moves.
The neutral spine position – which is taught in Joseph Pilates Philosophy and emphasised in every Pilates move – is utilised as the most functionally perfect posture for our bodies. The curves in our spine are utilised in order to create stability and mobility for taking on the weight as well as pressure of our bodies in our everyday life.
The robust focus on the core (deep abdominal) strength establishes stronger support muscles for the spine. Through implementing these techniques into your everyday life, you start to fix the problem at the cause as opposed to treating the symptoms. Everything begins from the core.
The following Pilates moves are some which we do in almost every class. Form is emphasised and body awareness is created so that you can utilise these principles on your own also. Form equals function, so when your form is at its best, you are really able take advantage of every exercise to support your spine and assist in lower back pain.
The pelvic curl is often one of the first Pilates moves taught. It’s comparatively simple but also shows how to make use of the abdominal muscles in a way which supports as well as lengthens the back. This Pilates move specifically uses the abdominals, hamstrings and gluteus maximus.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back. Make certain that your knees are bent at 45 degrees and your feet are flat on the mat and hip-width apart. Put your arms at your sides with your palms facing down. Relax your neck, shoulders as well as your lower back.
- Inhale to prepare. Exhale in order to set the core and then slowly curl the pelvis and spine off the mat. Do this one vertebra at a time.
- Inhale and then hold at the top. Your pelvis should be at maximum posterior tilt. A stretch should be sensed in your hip flexors.
- Finally, exhale and then slowly lower your trunk. Roll down, one vertebra at a time, while returning to the starting position.
- Repeat the sequence ten times.
One of the most frequent reasons why back pain occurs is not weak back muscles but rather weak abdominal muscles. Chest lift is a great Pilates move to strengthen your abs. Do this Pilates move with care. Your hands offer some support to the back of your head however the work needs to come from the abs—not from momentum or from pulling your head up. If you start to suffer from neck pain, stop and go on to the next Pilates move:
- Lie supine with your knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Your legs and feet are parallel and lined up so that your hip, knee, and ankle are in one straight line. Your toes must be pointing directly away from you. You’ll be in a neutral spine position with the natural curve of the lower spine that creates a slight lift off the mat.
- Make sure that keep your shoulders down as you bring your hands at the back of your head with your fingertips touching. Your hands will offer light support to the base of your skull; however your elbows will stay open during the exercise.
- Inhale. Exhale and slowly pull your belly button down towards your spine. Keep going and allow your spine to lengthen out along the mat. At the same time, tilt your chin down slightly and slowly lift your upper spine off the mat until the base of your scapulae is just brushing the mat. There will be a deepening feeling under the bottom ribs as you lift up off the mat.
- Keep in mind that the work is in your abs, which are in a deep, concave position. Your neck and shoulders remain relaxed and the movement does not create tension in the legs.
- Pause at the top and inhale. Draw the abdominals in deeper.
- Exhale: Keep the abdominals drawn in as you slowly lower your body back to the mat. Inhale.
- Repeat between six and eight times.