How Pilates Can Help (and hurt) Your Back

Pilates is an exercise system that has gained tremendous popularity throughout the United States in recent years. Millions practice Pilates, and it is frequently recommended to help people struggling with back problems. From rehabilitation from surgery to degenerative disc disease, it is highly touted as an exercise program that works to strengthen core muscles and help those who practice it be more aware of their alignment.

How Pilates Works to Improve Spine Health

Pilates is highly popular due to the way the exercises involved work to strengthen the core postural muscles, which are essential to supporting the spine. Celebrities, dancers, and athletes all praise Pilates for the way that it strengthens and lengthens muscles, as well as how it works to improve one’s overall flexibility and posture.

The principles of Pilates all seek to have a positive impact on one’s spine health. Some of the program’s key focus areas are:

  • Using mental focus to improve movement efficiency and muscle control
  • Teaching awareness of neutral spine alignment (proper posture)
  • Developing the deep muscles of the back and abdomen to support proper posture
  • Creating length, strength and flexibility in muscles
  • Dancers have used Pilates since its inception in the early 1900s to increase strength and flexibility, and it is now useful for anyone who wants to acquire the health benefits practicing Pilates offers. Exercises include those that involve equipment and those that do not; however a mat is always part of the routine.

    Mat exercises are effective for patients who suffer from uncomfortable spine symptoms and conditions. These exercises train patients to become aware of the movement habits they have formed throughout the years that may have negatively impacted their spines. These exercises focus on strengthening the trunk and hip muscles and increasing the flexibility of the spine and hips. They work well in combination with yoga exercises geared toward reducing back pain and improving posture.

    How Pilates can Worsen Your Condition

    If someone attempts Pilates with a very weak back or core, they run the risk of becoming injured. Pilates exercises are often challenging and require one to maintain a position that is not at first natural for a few minutes at a time. It can put more pressure and strain on weakened back muscles and the spine, which can lead to injuries like disc herniation which can worsen even more if ignored to the point that a disc ruptures.

    Oftentimes, the worsening of a spine condition due to Pilates is the fault of poor instruction. Pilates instructors should be qualified to teach Pilates. There are several organizations that properly train instructors with a different area of focus. Instructors who have been trained by the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) for example are all trained physiotherapists who have a deeper understanding of anatomy.

    If you are considering Pilates to recover from a spine surgery or relieve back pain, you should always check with your physician or Doctor Marc A. Cohen of the Spine Institute. It is also a good idea to seek one-on-one instruction in the beginning by a certified instructor who understands your specific health problem. Make an appointment with Dr. Cohen today by calling 973-538-4444.