Clinical Pilates and Low Back Pain….
Pilates is a form of exercise designed to improve the efficiency of movement by focussing on breathing and body position. Traditionally Pilates incorporates a series of strengthening and flexibility exercises which can be made more challenging through the progression of body weight, resistance and balance. Physiotherapists have long utilised the ‘principles of Pilates’ by modifying exercises to assist in the rehabilitation of injuries.
A long held concept exists that ‘core strengthening’ will cure all and protect us from back pain; resulting in droves of sufferers enduring endless planks and abdo crunches in the pursuit of a washboard stomach and pain free existence. However this somewhat simplistic view has been much disputed whilst strength and conditioning, in a paced and appropriate manner has been shown to be the most effective conservative management option available for back pain. Specifically, strengthening the deep local abdominals in isolation, does not appear to produce any better outcomes in most back pain groups.
So why do physiotherapists and patients find Pilates so effective
It would appear there is more to its magic than just building up tummy muscle strength alone.
Evidence has shown that following an episode of low back pain, and to a greater extent when people have persistent pain, the brain’s awareness of that region can become altered – much in the way that balance can be more difficult after an ankle sprain, or the way we have to re-learn how to walk again after a knee operation. It has been suggested that Pilates may be of benefit by ‘re-educating’ how to control and co-ordinate back movements again.
In addition, there is growing research to show that reducing the threat and anxiety we often associate with bending, turning and exercise after an episode of back pain, is an important factor in gaining a positive outcome longer term. Practicing these movements in a pain-free and supervised environment may help the local muscles in the area, which are often on ‘high alert’ after a flare up, to re-learn how to behave more normally.
So, whilst we are not suggesting you swap your sit ups for the Snickers bars, gaining and maintaining strength, flexibility, muscle balance and movement control will help you find a healthy balance, and a happier back.
Here at Richmond Physiotherapy we run bespoke Clinical Pilates classes in small groups and 1:1’s, as well ASA Back Fitness Classes. Give us a call on 020 8332 1132 if you would like to find out more.