Pilates is amazing, my posture is so much better and I’m even starting
to get muscles on my tummy – it’s incredible. – Kelly Osbourne
Pilates has been used as a treatment for pain and movement dysfunction since the first half of the twentieth century and has gained an enormous following since its inception.
It’s now the exercise of choice for almost anyone seeking better core strength and posture, or for those simply wanting to look and feel better.
Well if Pilates is so great, you may be wondering if you can use it freely, regardless of your general physical condition.
The short answer is no.
Working as a physiotherapist for the last ten years, I’ve used a range of Pilates techniques with my patients. For those suffering from spinal pain, it can provide great results, but only when utilised correctly.
Pilates is not a one size fits all intervention for back pain, and can easily make symptoms worse with the wrong exercises.
Despite this, Pilates classes are generally packed with students following a set routine, with little opportunity for instructors to tailor individual programmes.
Often the movements used in classes are heavily biased towards spinal flexion (bending), which have the potential to aggravate select pre-existing conditions.
Frequently I’ve treated patients who complained that such Pilates classes increased their back pain or delayed their recovery.
For those suffering from spinal conditions, Clinical Pilates can avoid the potentially harmful effects of a general class and provide a great introduction to the correct exercises and movement patterns.
What is Clinical Pilates?
Devised by Craig Phillips of DMA over 25 years ago, it’s a tool for physiotherapists to help patients restore spinal mobility and strength.
The Clinical Pilates approach assumes that all injuries have a directional preference for movement. If you move the wrong way, the condition can become aggravated, while moving in the correct direction can reduce pain and dysfunction.
If you’re suffering from spinal pain and aren’t seeing the results from attending Pilates classes, or your symptoms are worsening, I would advise consulting a Clinical Pilates physiotherapist.
Having used the technique extensively, I can attest to its impressive record with patients suffering from acute and chronic back pain.
Clinical Pilates physiotherapists can work with you one-on-one to accurately diagnose your condition, identify a movement preference, and prescribe a series of tailored exercises designed to abolish your symptoms. You’ll be able to improve your spinal movement and strength while avoiding placing stress on any healing structures.
The movements will be very specific and gentle at first, but as your pain recedes the exercises will slowly become more advanced. The idea is not to give you a six-pack straight away but build on a solid foundation of core strength.
When your pain is gone, you can return to your Pilates classes confident in the knowledge that you’re performing safe, effective exercise and working towards a stronger body.
If so, ask yourself these questions before deciding to consult a professional:
- Do you have back pain that doesn’t respond to your normal exercise routine?
- Does the pain affect your posture?
- Are you forced to take medication to control the pain?
- Has your pain been present for more than two weeks?
If your answer is yes to any of the above, Clinical Pilates may just have your back.