Strengthening the deep core postural muscles of the body is critical to healing and preventing the most common causes of back pain.
We’ve Got Your Back with Pilates!
Lower back pain, almost everyone has experienced it at some point. In fact, lower back pain is one of the most common physical complaints in the U.S. It is said to be the leading cause of disabilities in people under 45 years old!
Most people will be surprised to know that more often than not, the causes of lower back pain are not very serious; however, if left untreated, it tends to get worse and create compensatory injury in the body.
Causes of Back Pain
Many things can cause lower back pain, including overexertion, muscle tightness, poor posture, muscle imbalances, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, herniated discs, and other types of trauma and injury. Sciatica is a common complaint and is actually a symptom of some of the above conditions (and others), which can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. Although many symptoms of lower back pain may be similar, the causes can be different. Finding out what is causing your back pain and/or sciatica is the first step in figuring out what type of treatment is needed.
Evaluation of symptoms is critical in determining the cause of your back pain, and therefore, your treatment options. For instance, treatment for sciatica caused by spinal stenosis is different than the treatment of sciatica caused by a herniated disc. Sciatica usually presents with a sharp, stabbing pain that radiates into the buttocks down the leg to the foot. Often, sciatic pain is relieved when sitting down or bending forward. If your sciatic pain is caused by stenosis, you would need to stretch your extensor muscles and strengthen your flexor muscles. In this case, flexion exercises may be prescribed. When the spine stretches forward or “flexes,” it opens up the nerve passageways where the nerves exit the spine, which helps to resolve impingement and, therefore, alleviate pain. With a specific exercise treatment plan, the spine can gradually be trained to hold itself in a position that opens the nerve passageways and reduce and eliminate pain. In contrast, when treating sciatica caused by a disc herniation, spinal extension exercises may be prescribed, and flexion avoided! Treatment of sciatica caused by a herniated disc is often treated with progressive sequencing of spinal extension exercises to “centralize” the pain, which allows the source of the pain to be treated rather than the symptoms.
These are just two examples of different treatment options for similar symptoms with different causes. As stated above, there are many causes of lower back pain (and cervical, etc.). Once again, I must say that proper evaluation and diagnosis by a medical professional is the best way to determine what is causing your back pain so that effective treatment can be administered. The good news is that most back pain causes can be treated non-surgically! This is not to say that surgery is not needed in some instances, but many, many cases can be treated non-surgically.
One of the best ways to treat and eliminate lower back pain is Pilates! Joseph Pilates meant for his exercises to be rehabilitative. You may be interested to know that it was in an internment camp during World War I when he first rigged mattress springs to bedposts to help wounded soldiers regain mobility and recover from their wounds.
Should surgery be the only option for you, Pilates is also the best way to recover and regain mobility, strength, and balance after spinal surgery and get back to your healthy self!
Pilates does the following and more:
- Teaches mindful movement
- Connection to stabilizers
- Improves flexibility and balance
- Strengthens the body from the feet to the head
- Improves efficiency of movement and muscle control
- Improves mental focus
- Strengthens and stretches the deep muscles of the back and abdomen to teach and maintain proper posture
- Enforces neutral spine alignment
- Teaches new muscles recruitment patterns to keep your spine and entire being healthy
Strengthening the deep core postural muscles of the body is critical to healing and preventing the most common causes of back pain. It is extremely important that if you choose Pilates as a way to help you with your back pain, that you work with a qualified professional.
* If someone attempts Pilates with a very weak back or core, they run the risk of becoming injured. Pilates exercises are challenging and require one to maintain a position that is not at first natural for a few minutes at a time. It can put more pressure and strain on weakened back muscles and the spine, which can lead to injury. Frequently, the worsening of a spine condition due to Pilates is the fault of poor instruction. Pilates instructors should be qualified to teach Pilates. Be sure to consult and research your instructors’ credentials and qualifications before moving forward with any program.
If you have any questions, would like further information, clarification, or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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About the Author
Dina Voigt is the Manager of Fitness Incentives Pilates and Yoga programs. She is a PMA-certified Pilates trainer, a certified Yoga instructor, a Personal trainer, Group exercise instructor, and Cycle instructor. Dina teaches specialized classes to the general gym population and she also does private and small group Pilates sessions targeting both fitness and therapeutic results. She specializes in Body Movement Therapy, which helps people overcome back pain, joint pain, and injuries, and helps achieve and sustain general fitness.