Pilates - An Alternative Solution to Low Back Pain

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Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for doctor’s office visits. The lifetime incidence of low back pain has been reported to be as a high as 90%. In a given year, close to 50% of adults will have some form of low back pain, with the direct costs alone being as high as $20 billion annually and the indirect costs, including lost work time and worker’s compensation claims, estimated north of $50 billion annually.

With the current focus on reducing healthcare costs while improving quality of life, Pilates serves as an excellent alternative option to lower back pain management.

What is Pilates?

The Pilates method was developed by Joseph Pilates of Germany. He was born with asthma and other health problems, but turned to exercise and sports to overcome his various ailments. Pilates’ emphasis is placed on controlled movements. While the core is the main focal point of Pilates, it also engages the upper back, glutes, and muscles of the legs. It has been shown to improve strength, balance, and flexibility.

Additionally, most participants note an improvement in posture and overall well-being. The focus is on improving core strength to help support bones and muscle as well as teaching awareness of movements that may stress the spine. It is a well-known fact that improvement of abdominal strength decreases the risk of injury to the low back and can help with lower back pain.

Is Pilates For Me?

When my wife first suggested I try a Pilates class for strength conditioning and improved flexibility, I wrote her off thinking it would not be beneficial. My wife is a big proponent for Pilates because she feels it has helped with spinal realignment after having three children, among many other things.

After trying a few private sessions, I am now amazed at the many benefits it provides including the ability to help alleviate pain. As a runner, my hamstrings, calves, and lower back are very tight. After a few sessions of Pilates, I have noted decreased tension in my low back and legs due to improved alignment and awareness of posture while engaging in physical activity.

Why I Recommend Pilates

As a pain management physician, I often recommend physical therapy and home exercises to aid in treatment of chronic low back pain because physical activity can help with both pain and mood, which go hand in hand. Spine related pain is best treated by utilizing a multimodal approach, which consists of a combination of medical, interventional, and physical modalities, which are vital for spinal pain improvement.

Pilates, with classes usually lasting approximately 1 hour, serves as another option to help improve their pain and overall well-being. Instructors do not have to be licensed to teach Pilates but it is best to work with a certified instructor who is knowledgeable regarding injuries to maintain safety.

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