Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lower Back Pain and Pilates

Lower back pain is a common ailment. It can be caused by weak abdominal muscles. Specifically, the transversus abdominus which should involuntarily contract with the multifidus along the spinal column. If the transversus is weak, or the co-contraction does not occur due to some other muscular weakness, lower back "spasms" can occur. A "spasm" can be defined as a tightening of a group of muscle that is not relieved through movement. If a muscle spasm is not treated through muscle relaxants or some other modality, scar tissue can build up which ultimately causes range of motion to decrease.

A few basic Pilates exercises can help in aiding the transversus and multifidus co-contraction for relief of lower back pain.

Prone Extension

Lay on your stomach and place your hands on your lower back. Pull your abdominals in towards your spine. Clasp your hands together and reach them towards you heels as you lift your chest off of the floor. * It is important to pull your abdominals up before you lift your chest off of the floor.


Lay on your back and pull your abdominals in and towards your spine. Press your lower back flat into the floor and hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat. Advance to lifting your pelvis one inch off of the mat as you pull your abdominals in. Once this can be done with no pain, begin to lift your pelvis higher, one inch at a time until you are in a full bridge.

Modified Roll Over

Lay on your back. Place your hands in a triangle shape and place them under your sacrum, just below your lower back. Press your lower back into the floor as you pull your abdominals in. Gently press upward with your hands as you lift your pelvis one inch off of the floor. Try to hold your pelvis off of the floor for one second and then slowly lower back down to the floor. Advance to lifting and holding for two seconds and slowly lower, three seconds, etc.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a 100 year old, 'tried and true' exercise and post-rehabilitation program created by Joseph Pilates.  It incorporates the idea of working from the 'inside-out'; utilizing the intrinsic core musculature to stabilize and enhance overall body function and awareness.  It is included in the Body/Mind genre.  

Why does Pilates work?  It re-educates the neuromuscular system so that new patterns are established on a deeper level in the body.  Therefore, these patterns of movement are not forgotten, even if the exercises are not done for a period of time.

Pilates is truly all encompassing, as it can be done throughout ones life.  It can be beneficial to infants through older generations.  It can be sport specific for elite athletes, which was how it's beginnings came to be;  as well as, fitness based or post-rehabilitative.  It can be done at home, in the gym, on the mat or on specialized Pilates equipment.

Pilates is great for individuals with scoliosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic back pain and many other special situations such as autism.