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Pilates for Back Pain: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 29

Building a strong core is beneficial for your balance but it also stops your back from taking all the strain. Maintaining a strong core helps to protect your body, and particularly the spine in everyday tasks like lifting, carrying, sitting & performing other activities and sports. 

Benefits of Pilates for Back Pain 

1. Improves Posture 

Bad posture is one of the main reasons for back pain. Pilates focuses on body awareness and alignment which helps people in adopting improved habits related to posture. Pilates aids in easing back strain and helps people adopt a healthy posture that strengthens their core muscles. It can also lessen the pressure on the back. 

2. Better Mobility 

Mobility is affected severely due to back pain resulting in stiffness and discomfort. Pilates focuses on improving range of motion and flexibility by targeting core muscles that support the spine. Pilates incorporates dynamic movements and stretches which reduces the strain in the back enhancing overall mobility.

3. Muscle Tension Reduction 

Muscle tension is one of the major reasons that a person may suffer from back pain, especially in the lower back. Pilates workouts focus on lengthening and strengthening muscles through controlled movements and breathwork. This helps in releasing tension and alleviating discomfort. 

4. Core Strength Improves 

Pilates places a strong emphasis on strengthening the core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles. Pilates helps enhance general spinal stability by focusing on these important muscle groups, which can reduce back discomfort and enhance functional movement. 

5. Better Body Awareness 

Pilates promotes improved body awareness by requiring concentrated attention to alignment and exact movements. People can detect and address imbalances or compensatory motions that may exacerbate back pain by using mindful movement and breathing practices. Over time, less tension on the back is caused by more effective movement patterns and better posture made possible by this increased awareness. 

Interested in starting your Pilates journey with us? Book a Pilates class here (based in Neath, Port Talbot).

Two women lying on their back doing a Pilates exercise
Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, which includes muscles in the abdomen, back, and pelvis. By strengthening these muscles, the spine is supported, which can alleviate back pain.

Improving backpain isn't the only benefit of Pilates - it is also proven to improve flexibility, core strength, improve posture and reduce stress levels. Discover all benefits associated with Pilates here.

Pilates Exercises for Back Pain 

There are a variety of Pilates exercises that can help back pain, including:

1. Cat-Cow Stretch 

This traditional Pilates exercise helps a great deal with back strain and gently mobilises the spine. 

● Put your wrists beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips

● While you arch your back, lowering your abdomen to the floor and raising your head and tailbone toward the sky (cow pose)

● Tuck your chin into your chest and draw your navel into your spine (cat pose), exhale out curving your spine 

● Repeat while switching between the two postures smoothly for a few breaths

● Don't strain the neck

2. Pelvic Curl (Bridge) 

Pelvic curl is another useful exercise for strengthening the muscles especially the lower back muscles and glutes. It helps in improving spinal mobility. 

● Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart

● First to prepare, inhale, then exhale as you engage your core and lift your hips towards the ceiling, one vertebra at a time 

● Pause at the top, then inhale as you slowly lower back down to the mat

● Repeat for several repetitions, focusing on maintaining stability and control throughout the movement

3. Swimming

Swimming is indeed one of the most effective yet dynamic Pilates exercises. It's an exercise that targets the muscles of the back, shoulders, and core altogether. 

● To begin, lie down on your stomach with your arms extended overhead and your legs straight behind you. 

● Inhale to lift your chest and arms off the mat, simultaneously lifting your legs as high as you can. 

● Exhale as you flutter your arms and legs in a controlled motion, as if you were swimming. 

● Continue for several breaths, focusing on lengthening through the spine and engaging the core to support the movement. 

Pilates for Lower Back Pain 

Pilates has been proven to be very effective in treating issues related to lower back pain in several research studies. Pilates focuses on specific muscles surrounding the lumbar spine to help reduce discomfort and enhance mobility. It focuses on improved posture and reducing back strain which ultimately helps in lowering the risk of getting back pain. 

Three women lying on their back with a ball between their legs doing Pilates
Pilates exercises strengthen the core providing stability and support to the lower back.

There is a strong correlation between Lower back pain and tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Stretching these muscles helps to immediately relieve tension in the back and continued stretching over time will help improve the posture in the lower back. 

As some back pain can be stress related, Pilates offers a place to work body and mind together through breathwork & controlled mindful movements. This can help ease and

even eliminate the physical pain we experience in the form of a tight neck, shoulders or headache. 

Can Pilates worsen back injuries? 

Pilates is generally safe for individuals with back injuries, however, it's recommended to practise under the guidance of a qualified instructor who can provide modifications and ensure proper technique to prevent any further strain.

Key Takeaways: 

● Pilates will help a great deal in managing back pain. It focuses on improving mobility & strengthening core muscles that support the spine. 

● Pilates focuses on alignment, body awareness, and controlled movements, leading to improved posture, enhanced mobility, and reduced muscle tension, all of which contribute to back pain. 

● Pilates is very useful especially while treating lower back pain issues and several exercises are employed to reduce the back pain. 

● Pilates should be done under the guidance of a Pilates instructor in case the condition is severe or you have any back injuries that need to be considered. 

To learn more about the wonderful world of Pilates, including how to prepare for your first Pilates class and how to choose a Pilates mat, check out our Pilates & fitness blog, and to book a class, head over to our bookings page.

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