Forum: Advice / Pilates/Yoga

Pilates and back pain
By Tyterope
On Tue Jun 08, 2010 06:05 PM

Hi... I am very new to Pilates... I started doing it 3 weeks ago using Anna Caban's video... While at first it seemed fantastic... I now have low back pain after every session and the following day... So much so that it has caused me to rethink doing Pilates completely... I believe I'm doing the exercises correctly, i.e., keeping my back completely flat against the mat, pulling my navel to my spine, putting my chin on my chest, breathing on cue as best as I can,(although sometimes I find myself holding my breath because I'm neither inhaling nor exhaling) lifting out of my hips, etc.
I also Googled "back pain/pilates" and this turned back a surprising number of articles from doctors stating that Pilates can have detrimental consequences on the low back because strenghtening the "deep core" muscles, in fact, does not protect the back as previously thought. The articles continued to say, that while exercisers end up with "6 pack" core muscles, their backs are ruined... And that the navel to spine movement is not beneficial at all.

This is all food for thought for me as I'm trying to develop a beneficial workout that will help me get back in shape for ballet. I know core strength is crucial, and I actually want to do Pilates, but I feel like I'm hurting rather than helping myself.
Any insight and/or knowledge you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for reading my long post. T.

5 Replies to Pilates and back pain

re: Pilates and back pain
By GetRhythmmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jun 09, 2010 09:43 AM
Edited by snot85 (133910) on 2010-06-09 09:47:45
I'm not a Pilates expert, but when we would have "Pilates day" in the dance class I took in college (When you're already a dancer, it's the easiest way to get your fine arts credit!), my teacher said that it could cause back pain if you weren't doing it absolutely right. She said she had a lot of lower back pain when she started until she talked to an actual Pilates instructor who said she was doing something the wrong way. As soon as she fixed it, her back problems were gone. I can't for the life of me remember what it was that she was doing wrong, but the instructor said it was a common "dancer" mistake. Maybe someone else knows what I'm talking about?

EDIT: After reading some other articles online, Pilates is actually used to HELP people with lower back pain because it strengthens your core and your alignment. Maybe you're experiencing a "good" pain? Like, maybe you're sore because it's working?
re: Pilates and back pain
By pondflyPremium member
On Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:25 PM
y lower back was all locked up tonight and was sore for trying to push. I had the proper alignment, but I think I need another adjustment at the chiro this week. 18+ years of slinging people will do that to you.

As for the pain, yes I'm feeling it but that pain is a good pain. It's been only two weeks, so no miracles can happen out of this.
re: Pilates and back pain
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Thu Jun 10, 2010 06:36 AM
In my experience, (good) pilates is god. At the place I train, all the instructors are also trained in injury rehabilitation so they've been very helpful in getting my neck problems under control.

As a young dancer I attended some dodgy pilates classes and the low back pain was one of the first things I noticed. Every single person I know who has attended a dodgy pilates class or teach themselves pilates from a video has also received back pain because they weren't engaging the right areas, or were trying movements too advanced for them (kind of like jumping straight to pointe with ballet).

As far as I know, the "navel to spine" thing is actually getting out-dated - all my current pilates instructors actually talk about engaging the pelvic muscles and pulling up from there. We don't even both comparing 6-packs (I don't have one!) as it's the lower abdominal muscles that are important, not the top layer.

Summary - pilates DVD's bad, classes good. And yes it is excellent for getting back into shape - I started pilates a few years ago when I was trying to get my body back into competitive-level shape, and now it's a staple of my training program :)
re: Pilates and back pain
By GrishkoMerrell
On Thu Jun 10, 2010 06:36 AM
So - I have taught pilates before, but I'm primarily a yoga instructor. I think that pilates can be great, and I regularly employ a number of their exercises into my aerobics/strengthening classes, but at this point I consider it a component of a balanced exercise program rather than a balanced exercise program in and of itself.

If you think about the position of your spine when you're standing up, your back curves forward at the lumbar portion of your back. We're built with curvy spines for a lot of evolutionarily sound reasons, including that it helps with shock absorption, movement, etc. Our spinal curves are good things. Yet in pilates, when you press your back to the ground you're actively working against that curvature. This isn't a bad thing if you're then balancing your workout by strengthening multiple muscles in multiple directions and spending time working with rather than against your natural spinal curves. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of "basic" pilates mat work keeps you primarily in one (unnatural) position, without strengthening your core in other directions.

I think that pilates can be great, and if it's working for you, then wonderful. I also think that more advanced classes with knowledgeable teachers avoid the problems that I'm talking about. But I'd say that if it's hurting you, respect what your body is telling you! Find a more balanced exercise program that uses a variety of different positions to strengthen your core. Incorporate the pilates exercises you like best, but don't feel like you're giving up if you don't follow the entire program.
re: Pilates and back pain
By Tyterope
On Thu Jun 10, 2010 02:01 PM
Thank you everyone for the advice!... I would like to take a class with a licensed Pilates instructor instead of using a DVD, but the rates for that are really, really high... Nonetheless, I may try to save up for it...
I can say that I feel VERY pulled up after using the DVD, more pulled up than any other exercise I've ever tried... but the low back pain is very troublesome to me... So... I think I'll just have to bite the bullet and contact an instructor to help me figure out what I'm doing wrong... And yes, some of the techniques I'm learning off the DVD may be outdated at this point...
I'll keep you posted on my progress... Thanks! T.

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