A study was conducted on women over the age of 65 who had lower back pain and were afraid of falling. After 6 weeks of doing pilates twice per week, they reported they had less back pain and lower fear of falling. This is because pilates builds core strength around the torso and hips. Many older people become inactive and lose muscle mass which leads to much greater instability. When you combine less muscles with less use, the muscles forget how to stabilize and have a harder time doing their job. The study involved 100 women so it was not a large study but it was clear that the women who did pilates had less back pain than the women in the study who did not do pilates. This study was conducted in Spain and reported on FoxNews.com.
Besides stabilizing these women, the reason pilates also helps to reduce back pain is two fold. First of all the exercises will build the muscles all the way around the torso which will help hold the body up and reduce compression in the spine. It allows you to have better posture and not squish your organs which can make digestion difficult and cause toxic buildup and therefore inflammation. It’s clear that exercise and elevating the heart rate also helps reduce inflammation because it improves circulation and helps the filter organs remove toxins that cause painful inflammation. Exercise in general reduces inflammation and back pain and this is why it’s not always a good idea to stop moving when you have back pain.
The second reason pilates helps to reduce back pain is because getting the heart rate up and blood pumping also has an effect on the brain. It relieves stress and releases endorphins that make you feel good. You’ll hear me talk about the mind body connection relating to back pain in most of my articles because it is so intrinsically important when it comes to dealing with chronic pain. Anxiety and depression can cause back pain because the brain will subconsciously translate negative emotions of fear, anger and anxiety into physical pain if it’s not recognized or dealt with.
If you have a regular exercise regimen, you will give yourself a lower chance of having anxiety and depression and negative emotions because you are counteracting them with the happy chemicals released during cardiovascular exercise. Pilates works as a cardiovascular exercise because it is fast movements done in succession that will get your heart rate up. The good thing about pilates is that there is no impact associated with it as it is all done in one spot on the floor. The muscles are contracted with specific breathing techniques that send extra oxygen to the muscles and help them build faster. The added oxygen intake also helps to build stronger bones over time. Bones are actually being regenerated at the center very slowly and the veins will bring that oxygen right to the center of the bones and strengthen them.
You can actually find free pilates videos on YouTube.com and you don’t have to worry about even leaving your house to do them. If you are concerned about injuring yourself or have low mobility, you could take a private pilates reformer class which works with a machine and resistance bands. There is something for everyone’s budget. If you don’t want to watch a video, just work on some core strengthening exercises everyday.
You can start on all fours and lift opposite arms and legs. You can do plank position holds on your hands and toes with a flat body and your arms straight. For plank position you want your lower belly pulling in, slow breathing and hands directly under your shoulders with fingers spread wide to protect your wrists. You can also lay on your back and lower your legs towards the ground and lift them up. You can start by alternating legs and once you’re strong enough after a few weeks or months, you can do leg lifts with both legs at the same time. You can also lay on your stomach and lift your chest to strengthen your back. If you have a medicine ball, you can do your core strengthening on that as well. Finally, you can sit on your heels, interlace hands behind your head and lean from side to side to target the side of your torso (the obliques). If you want to look up core strengthening exercises or stabilizing exercises on the internet to save yourself the cost of pilates classes you can search for that on google and find exercises that work for you.
Some older women may find it intimidating or hard to keep up in a pilates class full of young and agile people. Making a home pilates practice is a good option if you find yourself in this category or look for a class designed for the older crowd. If you have an injury, consult with a qualified physical therapist about stabilizing exercises for your hips, shoulders and core. Also please understand that this article is not meant to substitute medical advice and if you have serious chronic back pain, you should consult with a doctor and ask them if pilates is safe for you.
Finally, it’s important to remember that pilates on it’s own probably will not cure back pain as we always try to look at back pain as being contributed to from a variety of fronts. If you only do pilates and don’t take other measures to lower your stress and adopt and anti-inflammatory alkalizing diet, you may not find the same results. All of the systems interact in our back (the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal, lymphatic and endocrine). Therefore we must look at how each of these systems can be harmonized and optimized through proper diet and stress reduction techniques.
So many people suffer from chronic back pain, whether it’s a dull constant pain or sharp pains and they do not have the tools to understand how to manage their pain. The three main components for healing back pain are dealing with emotional toxicity through mindful meditation or counseling, eating a healthy alkalizing plant based diet as well as a regular stretching and strengthening regimen. Because this study was done only over 6 weeks, pilates may help even more over longer periods of time from a physical and psychological standpoint.