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Yoga and Pilates for Back Pain

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Yoga; Pilates; Tone; Balance; Strength;

Both Yoga and Pilates are becoming progressively popular, which is possibly due to their increasing popularity with celebrities, choosing it as their preferred form of exercise. Yoga particularly, is now recommended by medical professionals as an effective method of treating and preventing back pain.

What is Yoga?

Practised for over 5,000 years in India, yoga engages the practitioner in developing spiritual and physiological well-being. Techniques include breathing exercises, maintaining correct posture and meditation.

What is Pilates?

Pilates was introduced in the early 20th century and is essentially encouraging the mind to take control of the muscles, aiding correct postural alignment and strength of the spinal column.

The Use of Yoga in the Presence of Back Pain

Yoga is particularly good in the treatment of back pain, as almost all movements work on both sides of the body at the same time. Stress can be put on the sacroiliac joint by exerting one side more than the other.

Yoga is believed to be beneficial in the treatment of back pain as it teaches balance, flexibility and strengthens muscles. By gradually building the complexity of movements, the body will learn how to distribute its weight effectively and will maintain balance and posture naturally.

The poses learned in Yoga are expected to teach the practice of body-awareness on movement and before repositioning. Frequent participation of Yoga will encourage a more supple body with less chance of injury occurring from sudden movements.

The Use of Pilates in the Presence of Back Pain

Pilates is more concerned with the improvement of the body’s alignment by increasing length, flexibility and tone of muscle rather than building muscle density. The aim of Pilates is to gradually encourage the joining of mind and body by a series of daily exercises that develop core muscles within the body, particularly those surrounding the spinal column. Deep breathing techniques also encourage a healthy blood flow through the body aiding in the recovery of muscular or ligament damage.Movements taught in Pilates lessons teach how to maintain constant control of the muscles, thereby eliminating many risks of back injuries resulting from sudden movements.

Specialists believe that those suffering from degenerative disc disease, pain stemmed from sudden movements and joint complaints are the most likely to benefit from learning Pilates.

Who Teaches Yoga and Pilates?

As there is no recognised governing body for becoming and practising as an instructor, background research should be carried out to determine the credentials of anyone whom is working as a teacher.

When attending a Yoga or Pilates class, it is essential to tell the instructor of any existing medical conditions especially those concerning the spine and mobility.

If a firm diagnosis has been made for a back condition, it is advisable to seek advice from your GP before commencing any classes, as some conditions are contra-indicated with the practices of Yoga and Pilates.

Where do Classes Take Place?

Your GP or Physiotherapist may be able to recommend a reputable class that is suitable for those suffering from back pain.Local leisure centres, schools and community centres often run classes at very reasonable charges. It is worth remembering though, that people with injuries may require occasional one-to-one teaching, and due to the class numbers that cheaper classes can attract this may not always be offered.

Attending a class is also a good way of building a social circle; back complaints can result in social isolation due to depression, anxiety or immobility.

It is important to remember that there are different levels of expertise and classes are usually focussed on beginner, intermediate or advanced practices. Do not have expectations of being able to do more than you are able in the beginning as it takes a long time to build-up to a level of expert.

At-home videos and DVDs are found in many high-street shops, however the disadvantage of this being that you are unable to ask for help, unlike one-to-one teaching.

If learning Yoga at home, ensure suitable clothing is worn and appropriate space and non-slip mats are used.

Yoga and Pilates are recognised activities that can aid posture, balance and strength; all of which are essential in preventing back injury.

The relaxation acquired with these practices can alleviate back pain by reducing stress and depression.If you are unsure whether Yoga or Pilates are indicated as treatments for your back complaint, seek advice from the GP or Physiotherapist.

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