As the single biggest cause of the years people spend living with disability, low back pain is something we take very seriously here at PhysioCentral. Up to 85% of people experience low back pain at some stage in their life, and with it the discomfort, aching, stiffness, reduced mobility, burning sensations and shooting pains that can travel up or down the spine.
While some of our clients have an ‘acute’ episode of low back pain, meaning that their symptoms started over the past six weeks, others suffer chronic, persistent or fluctuating low back pain for months, if not years, before seeking help. Beyond using heat packs, anti-inflammatory medications and other therapies that provide temporary symptom relief, if you have low back pain, it is important you get the right care that addresses the cause of the problem - and improves your long-term health, pain levels, and quality of life.
So, what’s one of our top recommendations to help with low back pain that is simple, effective, and easy to access? It’s exercise, and Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise that has been shown to provide significant pain relief and functional enhancement for those experiencing lower back pain,,, and here’s why our clients are loving it.
First: What Is Pilates - And Is It For Everyone?
The principles of Pilates date back to the 1920’s, offering both mind and body benefits by focusing on a person’s unique core stability, strength, balance, control – and in this case, how these are linked to your back strength and posture.
As Pilates is low impact and uses slow but powerful movements to strengthen muscles and increase mobility, anyone can do Pilates, with your routine being tailored to any other pre-existing injuries or conditions. Pilates can be performed on a mat, or may use equipment like the reformer to provide additional resistance. Don’t worry - your physio or Pilates instructor will guide you through every step.
With hundreds of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates can be tailored to your individual needs. It can be safe to do while pregnant and any current or past injuries or other concerns can be catered to by your physio or certified Pilates instructor.
Pilates Creates Long, Strong Muscles
Pilates creates long, strong muscles by using a type of muscle contraction called an eccentric contraction. This type of contraction occurs when the muscle gets longer under tension: think of the ‘down’ phase of a bicep curl, where you are stretching, or lengthening your muscle against resistance. In Pilates, movements often require you to resist gravity and move in a slow and controlled way.
This focus on gently strengthening and toning muscles supports and optimises your functional movement, strengthening your upper body, lower body, and abdominal muscles. Using Pilates to strengthen the muscles in your lower back, upper back and abdominals can help you relieve and manage low back pain by lessening the strain on the lower back, while supporting optimum posture and function.
Pilates Develops Core Strength
Weakness and dysfunction of the core muscles (abdominal muscles, back muscles and the pelvic floor) is associated with back pain. A key focus of Pilates is the core, using a purposeful combination of exercises to gently help improve its strength and endurance. This helps to lengthen and stretch the lumbar spine and decrease joint compression in the back, which may help with low back pain.
Pilates Improves Posture
Having good posture doesn’t just reflect on alignment, strength or flexibility, but the awareness of your body and posture, too. The lack of awareness of the body’s position during movement has been observed in people with back pain. Those who regularly practice Pilates are better able to maintain a good posture through greater awareness of their body and muscle strength, and good posture is strongly connected to the relief of low back pain.
Pilates Teaches Muscle Activation
Similar to body awareness, Pilates also focuses on purposefully activating specific muscles at the right time - including the core muscles. When we are able to engage our core muscles during activities that may otherwise strain our backs, like squatting when lifting a heavy object, the strain on our back can be reduced - and so is the onset of pain.
How Often Should I Do Pilates?
Two hours per week, or twice a week for 60 minutes, has been shown to help with relieving lower back pain, but your physio should work with you to factor in your unique needs and circumstances to help you get the best results in an optimum time frame.
One study that had its participants complete an 8-week Pilates exercise program found that it was effective in improving disability, pain, flexibility and balance in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.
Completing 6-12 weeks of Pilates sessions has also been shown to be effective in helping both acute low back pain, as well as chronic pain, relieving pain and improving mobility for up to 24 weeks. Your physio will review and monitor your progress each week, and adjust your program length and intensity accordingly.
We’re Helping Hong Kong With Their Low Back Pain
Here at PhysioCentral and The Pilates Practice, we are proud to have a highly experienced and knowledgeable team of physiotherapists and certified Pilates practitioners that understand the complexities of low back pain - and how to use Pilates to create long-lasting, positive outcomes on your pain levels, health and overall well-being. Don’t let low back pain continue to impact your life - for any questions or to book your appointment with our fantastic team, call us on +852 2801.4801 or book your appointment online.