Pilates for Lower Back Pain

As a human, most of us will experience some type of back pain at one point or another during our life.  For some of us, this pain might be due to an injury such as a car accident or a fall.  For others, the pain might just come on for no apparent reason. One day you wake up with back pain, or you simply put the key into the car and feel that slight twinge which increases with intensity to a full out “pain in the back”.  For most of us, this back pain can be prevented and relieved with Pilates exercises.  At ScoliosisPTJax, our Pilates instructors have the knowledge and experience to guide you through an exercise program that will help you strengthen your core to prevent or decreased back pain.

The unique qualities of the  Pilates equipment can help balance your muscles.  The springs on the pilates reformer engage and strengthen deep abdominal and core muscles.  Pilates is extremely effective for postural awareness and control, which can prevent and treat back pain. However, at ScoliosisPTJax our Pilates instructors also focus on educating clients on ways to apply the techniques taught in Pilates into their everyday life.

Pre-Pilates Exercises

Before beginning pilates, it is important to find your ideal spine and pelvic position.  Joseph Pilates placed an emphasis on finding the Neutral Spine, which is the most ideal or “perfect” posture for YOUR body. Everybody is unique, and the ideal posture for each person is unique.  The philosophy behind this neutral posture is to give your body the most stable position from which to begin stretching and strengthening.  The strong focus on the core or deep abdominal muscles during pilates further brings the body into balance and ideal posture. 

The following exercises can be done at home with little to no equipment. Pilates is about the mind-body connection. Find a quiet place on the floor and begin by focusing on your breath. Pilates is about the mind-body connection. Close your eyes and scan your body. Relax your head, shoulders, and chest. Bring awareness to your ribs in the front, back, and sides. Feel your chest expand in 360 degrees as your breath. When you perform each of the following exercises focus on where you feel the tension and try to allow it to ease away.  

Movement heals and Pilates can help you heal your back.  BUT we recommend you talk to a physician or physical therapist before starting any exercise program

Best Pilates Exercises to do at Home for Back Pain

Pelvic Tilt

This simple but effective exercise gets the deep core muscle switched on and builds strength in the support system of the spine.

       Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.

  1.  Where does your body contact the floor?  
    1. Head- relaxed and not rotated right or left
    2. Shoulder blades- engaged and  away from your ears
    3. lower ribs and sternum- release towards the floor
    4. Tail bone- heavy
    5. Feet- pointed directly away from your head
  2. Allow your lower back to soften so that there is some space between your lower back and the floor
  3. Bring your hands together over your pelvis to make a “diamond” shape. The position of your hands will help you feel the movement of the pelvis.  
  4. Connect to your breath with an inhale and exhale.
  5. Exhale and begin to engage your abdominals so that your belly button goes towards  your spine and your back becomes more flat and imprinted into the floor
  6. As you inhale, tilt your pelvis forward so that there is more space between your low back and the floor. 

This movement is called a pelvic tilt.  Continue this movement with your breath.

The middle of this movement (pelvis not too tucked and not too tilted) is often referred to as your ideal pelvis position.

Single-Leg Lifts

This movement often follows the pelvic tilt.  It encourages more core engagement and movements of the hips from a stable base.

Begin on your back with both legs bent, feet on the floor.

  1.  Connect to your breath.
  2. Inhale and slowly raise one leg up at a time while keeping your head neck and shoulders relaxed and keeping your pelvis in a neutral position.
  3. Exhale and alternate legs.

Chest Lift

This exercise is often performed after the pelvic tilt.  It engages the abdominals to strengthen the core.

  1.  Lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Take a movement to focus on your legs, make sure that your hips, knees, and feet are parallel with each other.
  3. Gently interlock your fingers, place your hands behind your head and allow your hands to support the base of your skull.
  4. Keep your shoulders down and your elbows wide.
  5. Scan your body, keep your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed, and ribs down into the mat.
  6.  Exhale as your belly button moves towards your spine and the mat and imprint your spine into the mat.
  7. Tilt your chin slightly, while keeping your neck long and slowly lift your upper spine off the mat leading with your breast bone.
  8. At the top of the move, inhale and bring the abdominals in deeper towards your spine.
  9. Exhale and slowly lower back towards the mat keeping your abdominals drawn in.
  10. Return to a neutral spine.

Supine Spinal Twist

Rotation helps to stretch the back muscles   This movement also helps to strengthen the oblique muscles on the side of your core to further support the spine.

  1.     Lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in your proper grounding form with your arms stretched out to the sides.
  2. Keep knees squeezed together (you may want to use a towel under your lower back if you feel any pain keeping your spine in neutral), slowly take the knees over to one side, keeping shoulder blades in contact with the floor.

    Repeat the exercise 3-5 times to each side, alternating sides.

    You should try and hold the stretch position for 10-15 seconds so that your body can really get into the stretch.

  3. Breathe out pulling your navel into your spine and drag the knees back to the center.

Hamstring and Hip Flexor Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

  1.     Lay on your back. One leg on the floor and the other leg lifted straight towards the ceiling. (Use a towel or resistance band to hold the leg up if necessary).
  2.     Try to keep your lifted leg as straight as possible, but keep a micro bend if needed. Pull your leg towards you as much as possible without twisting, until you feel a stretch throughout the entire back of your leg.
  3.     Keep your breath flowing and try to relax, use every inhale and exhale to go deeper into your stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  1.     Kneel on the ground with one leg forward (foot flat on the ground). Lift tall in the spine and keep your belly button pulling into your spine.
  2. Tuck your pelvis under (opposite to poking your bottom out).
  3.     You may start to feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Bring your weight forward to feel more stretch in the front.

Hold 30 seconds then repeat the other leg.