Around 80% of Australians will experience low back pain at some stage in their lifetime. As a Pilates instructor with over 4 years experience working in both Osteopathy and Physiotherapy centres, I’ve seen an extremely large number of clients coming through the Pilates studio with back pain. The most common question asked is “Will Pilates help my back pain?” The simple answer is yes, not only can it alleviate back pain but Pilates can also prevent an occurrence of back pain.
Poor posture is becoming increasingly common in today’s society. People are spending more time sitting at a desk than ever before and less time exercising and moving. This causes an imbalance in the muscles of your body, which then leads to poor posture which in turn leads to back pain. Pilates helps to balance out the musculature in the body and improve posture.
One of the main goals in Pilates is to strengthen the intrinsic musculature or deep muscles in the body, when relating this to the back, these muscles are the ones closest to the spine. They make up our deep core musculature and consist of the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus and multifidus. Generally when exercising we are taught to strengthen our extrinsic muscles or our “six pack muscles” which always feels great as these muscles are very global and the ones we tend to feel the burn with. But if we aren’t strong enough in our intrinsic muscles we can put a lot of pressure on our spine when working on our “six packs”. If you can imagine, much like building a house, we have to lay solid, strong foundations before we put the walls and roof up.
Engaging your deep intrinsic muscles can take time, practice and patience, it can also be a frustrating task at times as we are so used to knowing a muscle is engaging by feeling “the burn” of that particular muscle. Although the muscles that protect your back and keep you strong through day-to-day activities as well as during exercise won’t “feel the burn” so can be sometimes difficult to know if we are turning them on correctly or not.
Pilates is a great way to train these muscles as the environment is created to encourage concentration, control and precision during exercise. Pilates instructors are also trained well to recognize whether someone is engaging their deep abdominal muscles correctly or incorrectly.