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Fight Back Pain with Pilates

Pilates Method Eases Chronic Lower Back Pain

A favorite exercise among fitness-enthusiasts and celebrities, Pilates is the ultimate workout for toning muscles and achieving a long, lean physique—but there’s more to Pilates than improving outward appearances. Researchers from Brazil have shown Pilates may also be the ideal exercise for easing chronic lower back pain when combined with other treatments.

For the 2015 study, sixty patients aged 18 to 50 years who were diagnosed with chronic lower back pain were divided into two groups. Both groups received anti-inflammatory medication for pain, but one of the groups also participated in 50-minute Pilates sessions twice a week for 90 days. At the beginning, middle and end of the program researchers assessed patient’s perceived pain and disability due to back pain. By the end of the trial, the group who did Pilates saw a 30% improvement in pain compared with a 6% improvement in the group receiving only pain medication. The Pilates group also improved their daily function—such as ability to walk, climb stairs or bend over—by 36%, while the medication-only group improved by 13%.

Based on the six principles of control, centering, concentration, precision, breath and flow, Pilates originated in the early 1900s from self-defense instructor Joseph Pilates. The system involves sets of controlled movements aimed to work the body’s “powerhouse” or core muscles of the abdomen, while improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility, resulting in total body strength. The exercises are performed on the ground with a mat, making it a low-impact workout that does not put pressure on joints or muscles.

If you are experiencing chronic lower back pain, speak with your physician about adding Pilates to your treatment plan. Even if you are pain-free, consider adding Pilates method to your usual workout routine. To give it a try find a local Pilates studio, check with your gym for classes or simply follow an online workout for mat Pilates at home.

BONUS: Yoga, another low-impact exercise, may benefit people with scoliosis. After less than seven months, patients who practiced the side plank pose every day saw a 40.9% improvement in spine curvature, while those who practiced the pose only four days per week saw just 0.5% improvement.

Published August 1, 2015

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