Pilates For Lower Back Pain & Core Strength

May 27, 2020

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80% of Americans suffer from some form of “Back Pain”, a catch-all term that describes a variety of ailments, ranging from muscular soreness and spasms to debilitating, chronic issues, including damaged discs, degenerative nerve disorders and joint dysfunction.  As a result, many methods have been developed to combat back pain, often touting conflicting philosophies and techniques.  Pilates for lower back pain has been shown to help.

At Integrative Spine & Sports, a practice specializing in sports medicine in NYC, we talk to a lot of our patients about back pain.

One of the safest, most dependable techniques to improve back function and increase core strength is Pilates. One of the fastest growing exercise trends in the world, Pilates is named after its founder, Joseph Pilates, a former gymnast who developed the exercises as a method for training injured dancers.   

Performed on a mat, or on a specialized resistance apparatus called a Reformer, Pilates for lower back pain exercises are similar to Yoga in that they emphasize the “core muscles”, specifically the abdominals, obliques, lower back, thighs and the butt.   

The moves are designed to engage multiple body parts simultaneously, often strengthening one muscle group while stretching another.  As a result, Pilates requires concentration, discipline and coordination and is an excellent way to add functional strength, increase flexibility and build overall muscular endurance. 

Here’s 3 Pilates for lower back pain exercises to get you started.

1. “The 100”

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“The 100” is an important abdominal exercise incorporating the basic Pilates principles of breathing, coordination and core engagement.  

Begin on your back with your legs bent at the knee and parallel to the floor.  Engage your abs and round your lower spine.   Exhale and lift your shoulders slightly off the floor.  Raise your arms towards your feet and pump your hands up and down slightly, maintaining a small range of motion.  Remember to relax the neck as you inhale for 5 reps and exhale for 5 reps. Continue until you reach 100 reps. 

2. Single Leg Teaser 

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The Single Leg Teaser strengthens the abdominals and the quadriceps.  

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet apart and arms raised overhead.   Extend one leg, engaging the abs and keeping the thighs parallel.  Lift the arms towards the outstretched leg, raising the torso one vertebrae at a time.  Exhale at the top and slowly roll your spine back to the mat, one vertebrae at a time, returning to the starting position.  Repeat on the other side, completing 10 repetitions with each leg. 

3. Pilates Plank

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The basic Pilates plank tones the entire body, strengthening supportive back and abdominal muscles. 

Paying special attention to alignment, begin on your hands and knees.  Keeping your hands beneath your shoulders, engage the abdominals and straighten one leg at a time until they are fully extended and shoulder width apart.   Hold for 30 seconds, focusing on your breath.   Release and repeat for 5 sets. 

As with all new exercise, consult your physician or physical therapist before beginning a program.

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