Pilates Offers Short-Term Benefits for Low Back Pain
If you experience chronic pain in your lower back (your lumbar area), then you know how much this can affect your quality of life. For example, everyday activities like mowing the grass or carrying groceries from the car to the house can make you wince in pain. Additionally, fun activities that you used to enjoy, such as playing sports, tending to your flowers or garden, and chasing after your children or grandchildren become distant memories as you avoid these types of actions in an attempt to appease your lower back area. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports that roughly 100 million Americans struggle with chronic pain daily, with low back pain being the most common pain cited. In fact, they further indicate that pain “affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined” which puts this particular symptom into perspective, highlighting the great need to find ways to relieve it. According to a systematic review published in PLOS ONE, a resource of scientific studies, Pilates is one viable back pain-relieving option to consider.
In this particular review, researchers looked at 14 different randomized controlled trials involving Pilates for low back pain. Overall, they determined that Pilates provided participants with “significant improvements in pain and functional ability.” This was primarily true for individuals engaging in this form of exercise for durations ranging from 4 to 15 weeks, especially when compared to people who received regular medical care for this same short-term length of time.
The possible reasons Pilates is beneficial to pain in the lower back are many. For instance, Pilates stresses postural alignment of the disc and vertebrae, as well as strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, both of which can result in lower incidences of back pain. It also increases flexibility and range of motion, making everyday activities easier to complete.
Finally, Pilates teaches you how to have a higher level of awareness when it comes to how your back feels and how it moves. This knowledge is important when it comes to helping you realize what actions can make your lower back pain feel better and which ones ultimately make it feel worse.
Of course, before beginning Pilates or any other exercise program in an effort to alleviate your pain, it is recommended that you first consult with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so. Once you’re given the green light, then you can begin an approved Pilates program to discover what benefits it offers you specifically.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine. (n.d.). AAPM facts and figures on pain. Retrieved on May 23, 2015 from
Glosten, B. (2003, March 21). Pilates exercise and back pain. Spine-health.
Wells, C et al. (2014, July 1). The effectiveness of Pilates exercise in people with chronic low back pain: a systematic review. PLoS ONE, 9(7), e100402. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100402