(Read This Before you Start Pilates or Yoga or Any Other Exercise Program)
You may have heard pilates is good for many afflictions including lower back pain. In many cases, this is true. Work your way through the pilates fundamental exercises. Slowly build your core strength, flexibility and body awareness often does help relieve many nagging back pains.
However, if you have an undiagnosed or serious condition, it is very important for you to understand what types of movement are good and bad for you. For instance, if you have Osteoporosis, you need to avoid most forward bending/flexion movements and rotation exercises. Herniated disc? Depends on the location and type of herniation, but generally, you should also avoid forward bending movements and twisting as well!
What about even more serious conditions like Degenerative Disc Disease? This is one that I haven’t encountered in my clients but recently became aware of because my mom was diagnosed, along with osteoporosis. The DDD is mostly in her lower spine near the tailbone and the osteo is mostly in her cervical (neck) spine. She experiences a lot of pain every single day and still hasn’t found the exact right movements & medication to help relieve her pain.
If you think your lower back pain might be DDD, here are some things you need to do immediately (and I’ve harped on my mom about these same things!):
1. See your doctor. Your general doctor will probably send you to a specialist. Get Diagnosed ASAP.
2. Ask if you can also see a physical therapist, so that you can understand what movements will aggravate your condition and also which movements are good for you! Also, the PT or specialist will probably give you some exercises. Make sure you know exactly how to do them before you leave their office. This is crucial!
3. Ask your PT and doctors about doing pilates. Most PT’s use pilates-similar methods and should be fully aware of treatment options. I have had several clients who also went to PTs — I always followed the protocol set up by their treatment. My clients always bring the list of exercises from the Physical Therapist as well. In some cases I’ve even spoken directly to the PT to get advice and more detail on the person’s condition.
4. Make sure your diet is in check. Some research I’ve come across points to the ability of a good diet to help your spine regain some of its health by eating healthy foods, limiting caffeine, making sure to take calcium/d supplements when over 50. Keep yourself hydrated. These are all basic good clean eating.
5. Do the exercises/stretches given to you by your doctor. This may seem simple, but one most people get lazy with. If you can’t manage to do the exercises as directed, then what’s the point to going in the first place!
6. Don’t suffer in silence. Go to the doctor. If your medication or exercises are not working, keep digging for answers. Don’t just “deal” with the pain.
7. Try “alternative” healing like acupuncture or chinese medicine.
8. If and when you can start pilates, do so slowly. Pilates can be extremely helpful, but you need to remember that you are not in a race. Take things slowly. Do the movements precisely and with control.
Here are some additional resources for you to consider:
1. Lower Back Pain Audio Exercises – Lynda Lippin recorded this extremely clear and easy to follow audio “workout”.
2. Download the Free Back Pain Relief Report – This a short report which provides some suggestions for relieving certain types of back pain without medication.
3. Check out: Pilates for the Fragile Back. I bought the book to help some of my pilates clients and re-read it recently before I give it to my mom next week when she visits. If you go through my link I will get a very very very small percentage of the sale.
As always, please see a doctor. I can only give you my personal experience working with clients who have back pain. I tell all my clients to get treated or at least diagnosed by a doctor prior to starting pilates. Don’t self diagnose…just push the doctors to give you a complete check up.