By Matthew Carr, Chartered Physiotherapist
'I have been told by my friend that Pilates can be really helpful for back pain and I am keen to try it as I don’t want to keep taking painkillers for my occasional back aches. Is Pilates really helpful for back pain?'
There is certainly a lot of evidence building that Pilates can be very helpful for what is known as mechanical or non-specific low back pain. This is the most common type of back pain where following assessment there appears to be no clear structural damage causing your back pain. It is thought with this type of back pain the painful symptoms are generated by the way that you put physical stress on the structures in the lower back area. This is influenced by multiple factors including how well the muscles that support the lower back are working as well as weight and levels of general fitness.
Studies have found that the deep stabilising muscles (also known as the ‘core’ muscles) do not automatically recover after episodes of lower back pain. Pain will also alter the way we move, our perception of how we move and muscles will become weak in response to non-use.
Pilates can, therefore, be helpful as it aims to:
• Re-train the deep stability muscles supporting the lower back
• Strengthen the global strong muscles acting around the lower back and pelvis
• Incorporate the synergy between the deep stability muscles and the global muscles into physical function.
Anecdotally, having run a large number of Pilates classes at our Horder locations over the last few years, we have many clients that feedback to us big improvements in their original pain and our large number of regular attendees’ is also testament to the benefit they gain from these. So in summary, it is certainly worth a try!