How Pilates may Help your Low Back Pain

About two-thirds of Americans experience low back pain (LBP) and 37% do not seek professional help, according to the American Physical Therapy Association’s “Move Forward” LBP survey. Unfortunately, back pain can lead to mental stress from the toll it can take on a ones life. Things we are required to do everyday (functional activities), such as walking and standing or sitting for a long time, can become difficult to tolerate. Working any job can become very hard, leading to difficulty supporting one’s family.

There are many ways to combat LBP, including medication, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery. One of the best ways to start relieving your back pain is through physical exercise. For some people, going this route can help them avoid surgery.

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So then, what exercise should one be doing to help decrease back pain specifically? Seeing a physical therapist is a great way to get started. On your first exam, they will look at your back to figure out what is contributing to your back pain, as back pain can have many causes depending on whether it is related to a disc or some instability in your spine. The physical therapist will then develop an exercise program specific for your needs.

One exercise that will most likely be included in your program deals with strengthening of the abdominal and back muscles. This is added to improve core stability, which is the ability to maintain good posture and keep your spine in good alignment as you perform different activities.

Throughout the years, research has shown that exercises to improve core stability are some of the most effective, conservative methods to decrease LBP. Multiple studies have shown that specific spinal stabilization exercises can help decrease the risk of recurrence of LBP, especially in those who present with acute back pain. One workout routine that really focuses on this concept is known as Pilates.

So what is Pilates exactly, and why should you consider it for treatment of your Low Back Pain?


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As mentioned previously, Pilates is a workout routine that focuses specifically on strengthening the core muscles. Other benefits with Pilates include strengthening of your legs, glutes, back, and increased flexibility. There is a strong emphasis on technique, making sure you are really working those core muscles while maintaining good posture during the exercises. There are specific names for the movements, such as 100’s and tabletop leg position.

There has been a lot of research on whether Pilates is effective for the treatment of LBP. One study found, “that a program of specific exercise directed at retraining neuromuscular control, provided by a physiotherapist, and based on the Pilates method was more efficacious in reducing pain intensity and functional disability levels when compared to usual care”. This is one of the many studies that found Pilates-based exercise to be an effective treatment to decrease back pain and the functional disabilities associated with it.

This is definitely a good conservative method to try out if you are suffering from LBP. You can buy a Pilates DVD and do it in the comfort of your home, or participate in classes near you.

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One thing to remember is that not everyone’s back pain is the same, so you should definitely seek a professional’s advice on whether this method is right for you, and if there needs to be any modifications to any of the exercises based on your personal medical history.


– Tahmina Rahman, PT


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