Back pain is staggeringly common. One in ten of us are affected by it and a huge number of us attempt to struggle through by taking all manner of painkillers. However, a recent overview of research into back pain suggests that medication is basically pointless. This temporary remedy tends to have such a small impact that is barely worth taking. Pilates, on the other hand, has a much more positive impact…

The main principles of Pilates are key to a an exercise regime that promotes good back health. Pilates helps you understand and build awareness of spinal alignment while strengthening the deep postural muscles that will aid in creating a much healthier, pain free back.

Pilates improves flexibility and suppleness of the muscles around the hip and shoulder girdle. Free flowing and fluid but supported movement through these joints and muscle groups helps prevent unnecessary pressure on the spine.

The Pilates programme will open your eyes to movement habits that may stress the spine, and will guide you in the process of changing these habits to ensure you ease the ache and improve your posture. Awareness of excessive tension and the use of proper focus will help you use your body efficiently.

The overall rule of thumb for sufferers of back pain is to avoid exercises that push the spine into extreme flexion or extension, or combine flexion with side bending or twisting. These movements will place excessive stress on the intervertebral discs. Also, it is important to avoid fatigue (mental or physical) as poor form due to tiredness is when injuries are more likely to occur. The exercises should be challenging, but not so difficult that they cause anyone to struggle or to overexert. If an exercise causes pain, it is best to stop and tell the instructor!

Finally, it may take a while for the full benefits of a Pilates exercise program to be fully realised and appreciated. Sure – reaching for those painkillers may be the easiest and fastest relief (although minimal). However, just as most back problems happen gradually over time, learning to use your muscles in a way that supports the spine and eases the pain takes time and commitment.