Being part of a society that works in front of computers, watches television screens, sits in traffic for hours on end, and has a mobile phone attached to us every second of the day, contributes to common conditions such as Lower Back Pain.
Lower Back Pain (LBP) can be extremely debilitating and will affect most people at some point in their lives. In fact, it is estimated that more than 85% of the population worldwide will experience lower back pain during their lifetime. Not to mention the fact that in Australia, 15–20% of the population report having back pain or disc problems, which roughly equates to four million Australians!
With such a high number of the population suffering from lower back pain, sufferers are RELIEVED to hear that in majority of cases, LBP can be significantly reduced or in some cases, completely relieved with regular Pilates practice.
Pilates is a mat or reformer machine-based workout that teaches you how to use your core muscles to rebuild strength around the spine. It is low impact, low intensity and was originally designed by Joseph Pilates as a rehabilitation method for soldiers during the war.
The postures we do during all Pilates’ classes, including beginners Pilates, target muscles that support your lower back, strengthen your core and realign your posture. This powerful combination of deep abdominal strengthening, postural awareness, and release and stretching exercises makes Pilates extremely effective in the prevention and treatment of LBP.
The movements we learn in beginner Pilates also strengthen your Transverse Abdominus (Tra Ab), which is a deep abdominal muscle that directly supports your lumbar spine. People who experience episodes of lower back pain generally have a very weak Tra Ab, which means they experience a lack of support and stability of the spine when completing everyday tasks, such as picking up or carrying around heavier objects.
The exercises and breath work we do during Pilates help to support the Tra Ab, by creating a ‘stable core’, which provides support to the lower back and allows you to create a strong base for the movement you do during your everyday life. This also increases the pelvic floor muscle and the rest of your abdominal strength, hence helping to support the back.
Another reason why all Pilates, including beginner Pilates, is great for improving your overall spinal health is because it helps to correct a lot of common postural imbalances such as Lumbar Lordosis, Thoracic Kyphosis and Scoliosis. All three of these are spinal conditions, which cause curves in the spine, leading to excessive lower back pain.
Pilates works to correct these spinal conditions by correcting the posture, improving the tone of your musculature, and increasing the strength of your spinal stabilizer muscles, which directly takes the pressure off the lower back and helps ease the pain associated with it.
Many people even find Pilates really effective in healing the pain and discomfort that comes with a bulging or herniated disc. A bulging or herniated disc occurs when the cushioning jelly that lies between the bones that make up our spine, oozes out of its original placement (outside of the vertebrae) and touches a nerve.
The reason Pilates exercise can be an effective treatment for bulging discs, is because the controlled movements we practice during class force the jelly cushioning to deviate away from the nerve and to return back to its natural placement. This also helps to strengthen the ‘Powerhouse’, also known as the core. When the Powerhouse is strong, the spine is braced and the discs are protected with the support of the musculature.
Both Pilates and yoga are great exercise regimes to help ease and prevent lower back pain, and incorporating both practices into your lifestyle is likely to reduce LBP and the painful symptoms that come with it.
If you wish to practice Pilates to help ease the symptoms associated with LBP or a bulging disc, be sure to speak with your Pilates instructor before class so that they can best support you during each exercise, and ensure that your technique is gentle, supportive, and effective in easing LBP symptoms.