Pilates for Back Pain? An UPRISE Q & A

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Woman holding her back

I recently had the chance to join Wellness Practictioner Dr. Michelle Robin on her weekly radio show, Small Changes, Big ShiftsWe talked in depth about the motivation behind my new book, UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar, a broken medical system that has not made any advances in long-term back pain relief in over 40 years, and the crucial role an understanding of the interplay between Bracing Muscles and Action Muscles plays in liberation from chronic low back pain.

After the interview aired, we received an interesting question from a listener regarding Pilates, Posture, and Pain:

Q: When Dr. Wheeler talked about posture, it reminded me of what Pilates teaches — stomach in, pelvis slightly tilted. Am I right about that? If so, Pilates might be more than an exercise. It might really prepare a person for a longer, pain free life. I am not currently taking Pilates due to arthritis, but this is making me think that I should get back to doing it and doing what I can.

A: Great question. Pilates IS a great exercise program. However, if you have back pain, Pilates is NOT ideal, as your body will have difficulty getting the correct muscles — the stabilizing Bracing Muscles — to work consistently. As a back pain doctor, I’ve seen numerous Pilates instructors as patients, who, despite doing Pilates movements perfectly, were found to have weak Bracing Muscles, which forces the Action Muscles to compensate and leads to back pain issues. So, for someone with no back pain, Pilates is great. But for those of you who DO have back pain, start first with treating the pain, and then work with a physical therapist who can teach you about strengthening your Bracing Muscles verses the compensating Action Muscles. THEN, once you have a better understanding of your Body Guitar, you can transition to Pilates.