Back Pain Treatment: Pilates

The Pilates Method is a system of conditioning that emphasizes proper body alignment, injury prevention and proper body techniques. Pilates was first developed in the 1920s, and is more popular today than ever. Pilates classes are available in most health clubs that offer exercise classes, and it is a great way to lose weight, build strength in the muscles that protect the spine, and receive a great aerobic workout. Pilates, like Yoga, involves exercises specifically designed to promote proper body alignment and strengthening of core muscles. But Pilates, unlike Yoga, is a more strenuous workout and involves more aerobic conditioning. While other movement therapies stress gradual, slow movements, working out the body as a hole, Pilates focuses more on the role of the back and spine in health. The stretching and muscle strengthening exercises in Pilates are designed to strengthen the core muscles of the body. The core muscles are located in our abdomen and lower back, and are though to be very important to our health because that is our body's center of gravity. Also, many of the core muscles located in our back and abdomen are responsible for the movement and support of the spine. Poor core muscle strength and development is thought to be one of the primary causes of lower back pain.



A Pilates program of core strengthening may promote stabilization and alignment of the spine. Unlike other forms of movement therapies, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, and Qigong, doing the Pilates exercises requires the use of specialty equipment that you would need to use at an athletic center (gym) or to buy for your home. Pilates movements are performed on a bench-like piece of exercise equipment. Other Pilates exercises can be done on mats, using light hand-held weights, and exercise balls. Pilates can be learned from instructional videos, one-on-one sessions, or in small groups. Some Pilates training classes include larger classes in aerobics studies, with the instructor on an elevated platform so that the people can see the movements of the instructor.

The Pilates classes may be excellent for people with back problems, due to their low-impact nature and focus on providing support for the spine. In order to maintain back health or to experience back pain relief, people must have good strength in the deep postural muscles of the spine that support a neutral alignment of the spine. A lack of strength in these core muscles may produce a lordosis or subluxation of the spine. Chiropractic manipulations may be successful at restoring the spine back to its neutral alignment, but if the underlying muscle weakness still remains, the patient will still be vulnerable to future structural instability.

To correct this underlying structural problem, patients may perform an exercise program which includes development of the deep muscles of the back, making their muscles stronger and more flexible, and through breathing exercises that allow them to concentrate better and perform the exercises with more focus. Pilates exercises, whether done with specialty equipment (e.g. the Trapeze Table, the ladder barrel, the Wunda Chair), on mats, or using exercise balls, are designed so that the patient can perform various exercise against a resistance.