Pilates exercise for low back pain


New evidence for Pilates exercise for low back pain
The new guidelines for low back pain published by the National Institute for Care and Excellence in the UK recommends exercise as a first line measure. This cut-off from “The Osteopath” explains how exercise is the first-line recommendation for patients with low back pain. This suggests that Pilates exercise for low back pain can be an effective tool for those suffering with uncomplicated, non-specific mechanical low back pain.

Why Pilates exercise for low back pain?
Pilates exercise emphasises the development of the deep abdominal muscles that support the spine. This helps build your deep core muscles of the abdomen and back, enhancing circulation and helping with overall spinal health. People who are inactive are in a much higher rate of low back pain as they become weaker and deconditioned around the spinal joints and mucsles.
Additionally, Pilates exercises aim to restore the natural curvatures on the spine. The exercises are mostly done by moving the spine segmentally. Unlike conventional exercises which do not focus on segmental articulation, better spinal segmental articulation means that less stresses are placed on the more mobile segments.
As the lumbar spine is stabilised (which has more movement than the thoracic spine), the thoracic spine is mobilised in Pilates exercises. The aim is to stabilise the give and move the restrictions.

Pilates exercise for low back pain

Pilates exercise for low back pain

Why lumbar spine stability?
“The Pilates method, which focuses on improving body awareness and movement through particular exercises is thought to manage CLBP (chronic low back pain) by activating the deep spinal and abdominal muscles while promoting greater spinal stabilisation. This specific stabilisation training has been shown to improve pain, reduce disability, and increase symmetry of the lumbar multifidi at the vertebral level in healthcare workers with CLBP”  (Stieglitz et al. 2015)

The more stable the lumbar spine is, the less likely of damage to the structures occurs. “The musculature surrounding the spine acts to provide a stiffening mechanism to the vertebral joints, therefore reducing the likelihood of tissue damage in response to an applied perturbation”  (Brown et al. 2006)

We offer Pilates for back care classes, personal training sessions and a variety of Pilates modalities for those with low back pain.

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Blog written by Carlo Yanez BOst, BA, registered osteopath.


Stieglitz, D.D., Vinson, D.R. & Hampton, M.D.C., 2015. Equipment-based Pilates reduces work-related chronic low back pain and disability: A pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Brown, S.H.M., Vera-Garcia, F.J. & McGill, S.M., 2006. Effects of abdominal muscle coactivation on the externally preloaded trunk: variations in motor control and its effect on spine stability. Spine, 31, pp.E387–E393.