Exercise, in general, is wonderful for back pain (both prevention and relief), but today I want you to consider one specific type that shows particularly exciting promise for back-pain relief: Pilates. (And I’ve got an exceptional Pilates instructional DVD that is yours FREE today at the bottom of this article!)
Developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, a physical trainer who created the exercises for rehabilitation. Soldiers, dancers and others in need of strengthening their bodies and healing from aches and pains were among the first early devotees, but today it’s enjoyed by more than 5 million Americans.[i] Joseph Pilates was quoted as saying (at the age of 86!):[ii]
“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
What Exactly is Pilates?
You’ve probably heard of Pilates, but if you’ve never tried it you’re probably wondering what, exactly, it is. Pilates is a form of resistance exercise based on a series of controlled movements that help you improve strength, flexibility and stamina. They’re performed on specialized Pilates exercise apparatus (such as the “Reformer” or the “Spine Corrector) or on the floor (mat work).
Like yoga, Pilates excels at working your core muscles, which stretch from your mid-back to your knees. As you strengthen these muscles, you gain extra support for your spine, which not only helps relieve pain but also improves posture (a key element in maintaining a healthy back). According to the Pilates Method Alliance:[iii]
“Pilates is a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. With systematic practice of specific exercises coupled with focused breathing patterns, Pilates has proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor, but also as an important adjunct to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation of all kinds.
… Practiced faithfully, Pilates yields numerous benefits. Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep, healthy breathing is a primary focus. Strength and flexibility, particularly of the abdomen and back muscles, coordination – both muscular and mental, are key components in an effective Pilates program. Posture, balance, and core strength are all heartily increased. Bone density and joint health improve, and many experience positive body awareness for the first time. Pilates teaches balance and control of the body, and that capacity spills over into other areas of one’s life.”
Major Results Using Pilates for Back Pain
If you know anyone who does Pilates (or have done it yourself), you’ve probably heard how great it can make you feel. But you needn’t rely solely on anecdotes, as there’s an impressive (and growing) body of research that supports the effectiveness of Pilates for back-pain relief.
- In people with persistent, non-specific low back pain, Pilates provide superior pain relief than minimal intervention, according to a meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials.[iv]
- Pilates resulted in a significant reduction in pain intensity and disability among people with non-specific low back pain after one, three and six months.[v]
- Adults with chronic low back pain reported a significant decrease in low back pain and disability after participating in a four-week Pilates program — and the benefits lasted over the 12-month follow-up period.[vi]
- People who engaged in specific exercises geared toward training the core muscles, including muscles surrounding the spine, had a significant reduction in pain intensity and functional disability, with the benefits persisting for the entire 30-month follow-up period.[vii] Although this doesn’t specifically test Pilates, core strengthening is an integral part of Pilates’ principles.
As reported in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine:[viii]
“It follows the Pilates method would be beneficial for patients with LBP [low back pain] because it improves absolute core strength and moreover encourages proper activation patterns of core musculature. For example, the foundation of the mat program is a group of exercises that train core stabilization; when proper recruitment patterns are demonstrated, more challenging exercises are progressively added to improve core strength.
… in addition to the role core strengthening plays in benefiting patients with CLBP [chronic low back pain], one must also consider the impact of the mental component of Pilates. Like yoga, the Pilates’ principles of breathing and concentration are no doubt intricately tied to the mechanism behind its effectiveness for the CLBP population.”
Mat Pilates May be Better Than Apparatus Pilates for Back Pain
If you have back pain and you’re wondering what type of Pilates to try, start with a mat-based program (as opposed to a class that involves use of apparatus). One study of businesswomen with chronic low back pain found that Pilates mat exercises resulted in greater improvement in pain level and balance compared with Pilates apparatus exercises.[ix] The researchers noted:
“PME [Pilates mat exercise] is assumed to have been more suitable and effective [for patients with low back pain] because it uses body weight to strengthen core muscles rather than heavier apparatuses as in PAE [Pilates apparatus exercise].”
The other major benefit to mat Pilates is that needn’t go to a gym or specialized Pilates center to do it; mat Pilates can be done right in your own home … and if you use the Pilates Made Easy DVD, you can do it for free too. That’s because, right now, I’m giving it away.
People pay well over a hundred dollars for a single private Pilates session and a group session can be anywhere from $12-25 EACH! Now, I’m making it a real “no brainer” for you by offering you this Pilates Made Easy DVD valued at $29.00…FOR FREE! If you have always wanted to give it a try but didn’t want to spend the cash this is your chance to save major bucks, not to mention get rid of your back pain.
And as you might suspect, pain relief is only one of Pilates’ benefits. It’s also known for creating long, lean muscles (not bulk), improving posture, balance and coordination, preventing injuries and heightening body awareness. So please give it a try. At worst, you’ll decide Pilates isn’t for you, but hopefully you’ll decide it absolutely is, and get much-needed relief from your back pain, too.