Pilates and Chronic Pain

Over the past ten years or more Pilates has been touted as the ‘exercise system of choice for people with back pain. Indeed the majority of clients attending classes with Northants Pilates have come to our classes suffering with chronic back pain.

Daily life is often sitting in front of a keyboard, or a steering wheel – or both for years on end. Then arriving home for more sitting. Consequently your spine learns to adapt to this posture. Problems occur when you try and do something that doesn’t require you sitting for hours.

For others it could be something more serious that has resulted in surgery or perhaps other less invasive but necessary treatment.

Many people with pain or those who have had acute pain episodes are understandably fearful of exercise and movement. 

How can exercise help?

If you approach exercise cautiously and with realistic expectations then you can improve your fitness levels and perhaps reduce your pain levels/discomfort and possibly even your drug regime.

It’s totally unrealistic to expect a body that has done little or no exercise to find starting any exercise regime to be pain free. 

Many people do little or no exercise and seem surprised when as they get older their joints stiffen or they start to show signs of arthritis and other ‘aging diseases’. If you were to park your car on the drive way and leave it there for years and years, it’s pretty daft to expect it to move on the day you decide to take it out. Yet many expect their body to do just that...move without pain, without any input to help maintain good healthy joints and muscles. Really? Is it such a surprise?

Some people may need medication to help in the early stages. This should be discussed with either your GP or specialist. If cleared for exercise with a sensible drug regime you can exercise your way back to good health without risk of further injury. NB.Taking medication DOES NOT mean you will ‘do too much’ and harm yourself.

*So to repeat….if you approach exercise cautiously with realistic expectations you can improve your fitness levels and perhaps reduce pain levels, discomfort and possibly reduce drug regimes.

By choosing the right exercise programme, then making sure you choose the right provider with a client centred approach to their classes.  This applies to ANY exercise system not just Pilates.

  • Do they limit class numbers – are you paying to watch the instructor work out or for them to watch you? 
  • Do they have a health screening form – if not how can they plan their classes if they don’t know what you are capable of or need to avoid?
  • Do they run ‘drop in’ classes? Again how can they plan a class when they don’t know who is going to walk through the door?
  • What are their qualifications? Have they got a basic qualification or more? You can check their qualifications on the Register of Exercise Professionals. If they are not on the register – ask them why not?
  • Who did they train with? Research their course and find out what they needed to do to earn that qualification. 
  • Do they have insurance? Every fitness instructor must have relevant insurance for their qualifications and the classes they run.

What should I expect?

Pilates – taught correctly – focuses on good posture and alignment. This should be the first essential tool in your exercise tool box. Then it should focus on correct technique when performing each exercise. You should be learning how to exercise effectively, not just going through the motions and counting the reps.

You will also work on core strength, joint mobility and flexibility, again in slow controlled movements that allow change to come gradually, not with force.

You are trying to build on muscles that have a dual role in both supporting you and moving you. You need to concentrate on each movement. You are trying to improve your posture and alignment and the ability to perform an exercise maintaining these, takes concentration.

Don’t expect a quick fix or miracles if all you do is one class a week. However 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. As with anything, practice practice practice. You won’t improve without it. 

Do you need equipment?

Not really. There are loads of fancy bits and pieces out there, but honestly, your own body can be just enough of a challenge to work with. There are plenty of simple exercises that you can put into a 10 minute routine that you can learn to do each day.

It’s the quality of the exercise session that matters, taking time to work on the basic principles - posture, alignment, core strength, joint mobility, flexibility and concentration.

Where can I find a good teacher?

For any exercise regime, check their qualifications with REPS or their training body. If you can, find out what their training actually entails, some are pretty basic!    

For Pilates you are safe with Body Control Pilates teachers (www.bodycontrol.co.uk). You can do a search through their website. Some of us have also further qualification in Low Back Pain through their Back 4 Good course.

Karen Grinter
Studio Director
Northants Pilates

Search our website

Search form

Copyright © 2012 a way with pain | Registered Charity No. 1150548
Website Terms of Use | Privacy PolicyWeb design by 1PCS