It’s no secret, we love Pilates. We’re not only crazy about the way it promotes strength, flexibility, balanced muscle development, and increased range of motion for the joints. As Physical Therapists, we’ve also found Pilates to be invaluable when it comes to helping patients with low-back pain find relief. With over 80% of us expected to experience low back pain during our lifetime, we want our treatment plan to both reduce pain and prevent future problems. The risk of injury and chronic nonspecific low back pain is higher when the muscles that support the spine are inhibited. Integrating therapeutic exercises that improve the firing of those muscles and create better movement patterns going forward is key. Pilates is particularly useful in treating low back pain as it not only strengthens the muscles, but also improves postural awareness.
Here are 6 principles of Pilates that, when applied to rehabilitation and our daily routine, can improve posture, muscle function, and keep pain at bay:
1. Core Strength. Effectively engaging the deepest abdominal muscles provides support to the spine and improves posture. Pilates core-centric movements teach us to properly fire the abdominal and spine muscles.
2. Breathing. Breath not only provides nutrients to the muscle, but increases body awareness during the exercise and activates the core muscles. During extension of the spine, inhalation helps the abdominal muscles that protect the spine engage properly, while exhalation plays an important role in core recruitment during spinal flexion.
3. Control. Along with developing strength we need to increase our muscles ability to stabilize during movement. Stability is gained by maintaining control while repeatedly challenging our bodies through a range exercises. As we gain control of our movements, the deep low back and deep abdominal muscles will begin to fire properly during functional activities, acting as a support to the spine.
4. Flow. Pilates teaches us to link movements together gracefully, controlled, and with proper form. This flow translates to better body mechanics during activities throughout our day, reducing the risk of lower back injury through continued support to the spine.
5. Concentration. Maintaining good form and achieving mind-body connection takes concentration and practice. By maintaining the proper form and posture required while doing Pilates exercises we develop the mind-body connection and create better movement patterns. Over time these patterns carry over to our daily lives, improving posture while sitting at work and while performing functional movements such as lifting heavy items from the floor.
6. Precision. Precision comes with time and through executing Pilates exercises with proper form, concentration, and activating the proper muscles. With precision comes improved body awareness and safer body mechanics.