Pilates Exercise for Back Pain and Lower Back Problems
How Pilates Relieves Back Pain
Sitting for hours on end hunched over our desks or devices could lead to back pain. Research says that a sedentary lifestyle increases our risk for some chronic diseases or even premature death. Fortunately, Pilates exercises such as leg kicks and back extensions can bring positive results.
Wells et al. reported that “Pilates exercise offers greater improvements in pain and functional ability compared to usual care and physical activity in the short term.” Bird and Fell also wrote that Pilates exercise has long-term effects on improving balance and strength in older people.
In most cases, it’s the lower back, that part of the spine that curves inward at the base of the back, that takes the most impact when we’re seated. Pain is either concentrated in one area or radiates throughout the back along the spine’s network of nerves, muscles, and ligaments.
Another common reason for back pain is muscle strain, which affects the lumbar region or the lower part of the back. That’s why when you overstretch or twist, you sometimes feel an ache or a stiffening of the muscles, from the back down to the buttocks.
If you’ve been feeling more and more of the pain and strain, it’s a good time to take steps to correct it as it could be symptoms of a more serious problem with the bones and joints. Here are some Pilates workouts that are effective in preventing back pain or reducing lower back pain:
Back extensions are low-impact exercises that strengthen the lower back muscles. These improve the torso’s range of movement while correcting our posture, thus preventing back injury.
How to do Pilates Back Extensions:
- Lie face down with your hips flat on the mat and your legs straight behind you
- Contract your abs and back muscles as you lift your torso and legs
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, keeping your head in neutral position
- Lower your body down to the mat, then return to the starting position Lower your body down to the mat, then return to the starting position
- Repeat the movements and complete the designated number of sets
Double Leg Kicks
Double Leg Kicks loosen up the lower back muscles and help the body develop more flexibility. This Pilates exercise gives the hamstrings a good workout while improving mobility around the hips.
How to do Pilates Double Leg Kicks:
- Lie down on your stomach with your legs together and straight behind you
- Clasp your hands behind your back, arms relaxed and face resting on one side
- Bend your legs as you exhale, pushing your feet three times toward the buttocks
- Lift your torso and bring the head to the center as you straighten the arms and legs
- Exhale and lower your body. Repeat the movement with the face turned to the other side
Cat and Cow Stretch
The Cat and Cow Stretch, a pose that mimics a stretching cat and a grazing cow, is for toning the back muscles (latissimus dorsi) without the help of any equipment. It’s great for easing tension and strain.
How to do the Pilates Cat and Cow Stretch:
- Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your spine neutral (like a cow grazing)
- Lift your sit bones upward, press the chest forward, and let the stomach drop
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders, and look straight ahead
- Arch your spine outward and draw the pubic bone forward as you exhale
- Let your head and tailbone drop a few inches to the ground (like a cat stretching)
Hip Extensions are also an ideal workout for both the lower back and pelvic muscles. They strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and maintain pelvic alignment, which increase support to the lower back.
How to do Pilates Hip Extensions:
- Lay your forearms and palms flat on the mat with the and head in neutral position
- Place your knees beneath your hips at a 90-degree angle
- Straighten your spine from head to tailbone, then lift one leg backward
- Lift the left leg toward the ceiling as you exhale, keeping the pelvis in neutral
- Inhale as you lower the leg, then lift the same leg up as you inhale
Knee Folds are one of the most basic Pilates exercises. These are often done as a warmup to mat or Pilates equipment workouts. They are also effective in releasing stress and tension on the back.
How to do Pilates Knee Folds::
- Lay down on the mat with the pelvis and spine in neutral position
- Keeping the spine stable, move one leg into a 90-degree angle at the knee
- Draw the right leg in as you exhale, and lower it as you inhale
- Lift the leg as you exhale, then inhale on the return
- Alternate movements on each leg, without tilting your pelvis or arching the back
Proper Pain Management: What to do first
Before deciding to take up Pilates, it’s important to establish the root cause of your back pain. At Pilates Plus Singapore, we strongly recommend that these exercises be done under the supervision of trained instructors, who can also teach you proper breathing and correct pacing.
The exercises in a Pilates programme can be challenging but not so much that to struggle with it. Our classes come in fundamental, intermediate, and advanced levels, with the exercises progressing at a pace that’s comfortable and safe for you.
The full benefits of Pilates may not be realised right away, just as the problems that caused your back developed over time. But by learning to use your muscles correctly—by supporting instead of stressing the spine—you’ll feel the tension drain away and your mobility increase after a few sessions.
Whether it’s a dull ache or searing pain, any discomfort in the back should not be taken lightly. If you’re looking for a way to alleviate back pain while engaging in a fun and sustainable workout, check out our affordable Pilates classes, which are customised to your goals and taught by our expert trainers.
Pilates Plus is the only Pilates and movement studio in Singapore that offers the Strength Pilates Series for both Mat and Reformer classes. The program is specifically designed to give you real results in strength gain, with our whole-body workouts.
Call Pilates Plus at +65 622 118 45 now or drop us a line, and we’d be happy to suggest an exercise programme that takes you closer to your fitness goals—taking you from a sedentary to healthy in both mind and body.