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How pilates can help a strong back

Our Osteopath and Pilates Instructor, Ellie West describes three reasons why pilates can be a fantastic way to create a strong back.  

1. The key to a healthy back lies in good movement and good posture in whatever you are doing, and pilates helps you achieve that.

2. Some other forms of exercise may push you to your boundaries, but can be high impact, and this can be detrimental to your back health.  Pilates on the other hand is gentle on your joints.  It  is based on the principle of reconditioning the body from a central core, and gives a natural, strong, girdle of support to the back.

3.  Pilates can help with muscular aches and pains as it helps to stretch and strengthen relevant muscles in your back, and helps your body to move in a way that doesn't cause aggravatation or injury.

Ellie does add a word of caution though. " Pilates is often seen as a cure all for bad backs, but there are hundreds of different reasons why a person may have back pain.  It can be dangerous to proceed with any form of exercise, even pilates, without a diagnosis.  I have found my anatomy knowledge, and years of experience as an Osteopath dealing with back and neck injuries invaluable when advising on Pilates moves suitable for bad backs.  We can use really bespoke, individualised and most importantly, safe, exercises to give you the maximum benefit for your own individual condition and help you get back to moving again in a pain free way.

Having said that diagnosis is important, and at the clinic we deal with some quite complex back conditions, the vast majority of back pain that I see with both Osteopathic and Pilates patients, is due to poor posture, muscle imbalances or moving incorrectly.  Sometimes these faulty movement patterns can develop over time, with years spent in a poor posture, or they can happen following a trauma or other injury.  Over time, these faulty movement patterns mean that you are likely to develop further weakness and inflexibility which can also accumulate as the body attempts to compensate for multiple problems. With pilates, we are trying to reverse that process and get your body moving in the way it was intended."

A typical session to help back pain with pilates 

1. Firstly, if you are new to the clinic we will talk through and do a physical assessment of your particular condition, taking into account your posture and how you move, with the aim of providing a diagnosis.

2. From the diagnosis, we will start to form bespoke exercises that will safely help you with your pain, and your very individual condition.

3. If you are new to pilates, we will generally start with breathing techniques.  As well as having a hugely relaxing effect on the body, breathing using our full lung capacity has a physiological effect on the body and helps to oxygenate the blood, heal injured tissues, and remove waste products which could be contributing to your pain.  

4. Next, we will work on your center, or your 'core'.  These are 3 postural muscles that should work together to form a natural girdle of support around the back, abdomen and pelvic floor.  If this system is weak we are more prone to back pain.  We will work on keeping the natural curve of your back in the correct position, whilst setting this centre - it can take practice, but once you have it we can use it for most of the more intensive and specific exercises.

5. From the base of a 'set core', we will work on specific targeted exercises to either help stretch, mobilise or strengthen your muscles and joints that are contributing to your back pain, to help your posture and help you move in a way that will prevent injury.  A nice side effect is that a stronger back can actually help you look taller, longer and leaner as you will have better posture.

Ellie holds one-to-one pilates lessons at our clinic in the elegant surroundings of the Hartham Park estate, and also runs our Thursday morning pilates class at the Pound Arts Centre in Corsham.  

If you are suffering with back pain and are looking for pilates to help, we would usually advise starting with a 1-to-1 assessment and lesson, and then you can choose to continue with 1-2-1 or join a class.  If you would like to book in for pilates with Ellie at The StoneHouse Clinic on the Hartham Park Estate in Corsham (between Chippenham and Bath), or would like to attend a pilates class please get in touch by clicking this link contact us.   


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