How to Use Pilates Exercises to Relieve Back Pain
Imagine going through a phase of having (literally) to crawl out of bed in the morning and pull yourself upright on the nearest chair, and then struggling to get dressed because you can’t reach your feet. This happened to a friend of mine who was subsequently diagnosed with a slipped disk (L3/L4).
Today he is largely pain free, and what worked as part of his recovery was doing core strength exercises, and especially Pilates. Pilates exercises for lower back pain may be something that you may want to consider if you are suffering from back problems and need follow up treatment after rehab. However, it’s understandable if you have questions as to what these exercises are and how they can help you.
So let’s have a look at Pilates exercises for back pain in more detail, and then you’ll learn how to get relief.
What Are Pilates and How Do They Prevent Back Pain?
Pilates is an exercise program that focuses on the core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and are essential to providing support for the spine. Im particular, “Pilates exercises tack awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment, which are important to help alleviate and prevent pain.” 
This is just another way of saying that Pilates movements focus on building the core—the muscles throughout the abdomen, those supporting the spine, and others involved with supporting the center of the body.
Pilates-Based Exercises as a Treatment Option for Lumber-Spine Problems
As stated, people with back pain and poor posture can benefit from Pilates exercise, but proper technique is key. You may have to modify exercises to allow for your abilities and needs in the recovery process. Before you begin Pilates-based exercises at home, It’s a good idea to review your techniques with a certified Pilates instructor. As a general rule, back patients should avoid exercises that push the spine into extremes of flexion or extension, or combine flexion with side bending or twisting the spine. These motions place excessive stress on the intervertebral discs.
In other words, you don’t want to twist yourself into a human pretzel.
That said, lets look at a common back problem that can be alleviated by post rehab Pilates exercises— sciatica.
The sciatic nerve runs from the low back/pelvic area through the hip and buttocks region and down each leg. It controls various muscles in the legs and is also responsible for sensation in aspects of the thighs, legs and feet. According to the Mayo Clinic, sciatica refers to “pain that radiates along the path of this nerve–from your back into your buttock and leg. The discomfort can range from mild to incapacitating, and may be accompanied by tingling, numbness or muscle weakness” 
Here are Some of The Symptoms:
- Pain From The Low Back to The Knee
- Pain From The The Buttocks Region to The Outside of The Calf and into The Top of The Foot
- Pain From The Inside of The Calf to The Sole of The Foot
- Numbness Along The Nerve Pathway
- Tingling or “pins and needles,” in The Feet
- A Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control
Pilates for sciatica helps build up the deep muscles that can help provide support to the sciatic nerve.
Post Rehab Pilate Exercises to Relieve Sciatica
Generally, individuals with sciatica find extension positions (standing, lying prone) most comfortable. Some individuals, however, find comfort in a flexed (knees-to-chest) posture. Your doctor, after testing and looking at your history, will recommend exercises to help your posture, strengthen the muscles of the back and abdomen, and improve flexibility in the muscles of the hip and knee.
Here are Some of The Common Pilate Exercises to Prevent Back Pain
Opposite-Arm-and-Leg Lift (3 sets, 10 reps each side)
- Lie on The Stomach With Arms extended Overhead. Exhale While Lifting The Right Arm and Left Leg.
Inhale while lowering the arm and leg.
Exhale and Switch to The Opposite Arm and Leg.
Four Points (3 sets, 10 reps each side)
- Begin on hands and knees with the spine in a neutral position. Exhale while extending the right arm and left leg and lifting them off the mat until they are parallel to the floor.
Inhale and return to the starting position.
Exhale and switch to the opposite arm and leg.
Piriformsis Stretch (3 sets, 15-30 seconds each side)
- Begin on hands and knees and bring the right foot in front of the left thigh until the lower right leg is perpendicular to the torso and resting on the mat.
Extend the left leg straight back on the mat.
Sit tall, using the arms for balance. Hold, then switch sides. (3
sets, 15-30 seconds each side)
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It’s not surprising that back pain patients across the globe are always on the lookout for ways to both prevent and treat recurring pain. As more people look into the best exercise to keep their backs healthy, they are faced with the question as to which exercises are most effective. Recently there has been a trend towards yoga for back pain. However, some people are now considering another option – Pilates. As a general rule, if one needs to relax his or her muscles then Yoga may be the way to go. If the problem is a weak core that can not support the back, then one would be better served exploring Pilates exercises to relieve back pain. As this post has shown, Pilates’ premise involves building strength from the inside out, with strong abdominal and back muscles leading to overall physical strength. That’s why it can be so effective for a condition like sciatica.
I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.
(Mayo Clinic 2005b)
Catherine Fiscella, “Help for low-back pain: these Pilates-based exercises can be a safe and effective alternative for clients with lumbar-spine disorders” Idea Fitness Journal. 2.8 (Sept. 2005): p34+.