Pilates and Back Pain

Why Pilates helps people with back pain. 

Pilates exercises are commonplace at physical therapy center; chiropractors are recommending Pilates; and "my back used to hurt all the time and now I don't feel it anymore" is a phrase we hear a lot from people who do Pilates consistently. So what is it about Pilates that works so well for back pain relief? 

What makes Pilates so effective is that it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body that lead to back pain. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all affect back health.


Pilates Helps Correct Posture

In Pilates, we pay a lot of attention to how our body parts are lined up in relation to each other. We call this our alignment. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates exercises, done with attention to alignment, creates uniform muscle use and development, allowing movement to flow through the body in a natural way.

For example, one of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. They deny the spine the support of its natural curves and create a domino effect of aches and pains all the way up the spine and into the neck.

Doing Pilates increases the awareness of the proper placement of the spine and pelvis, and creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine. This is referred to as a neutral spine and has been the key to better backs for many people who do Pilates.


Pilates Tips for Tight Hamstrings and Back Pain

Roll-downs are key in maintaining a healthy back; so don't let their simplicity fool you.


A roll-down is a gem of a move to stretch your hamstrings and help ease an aching back. It only takes a few minutes of your time, and can be done anywhere.

Roll-downs stimulate abdominal support in the front of the body, while the rolling wheeling motion opens up tightness held in the hamstrings and back of the body.

The key - keep your abdominal muscles "scooped" throughout the movement.

Scooping your navel to spine provides a strong front-body support for your torso while it is moving, enabling your back muscles to relax and stretch out as you roll and breathe.


1.  Keep your hips over your feet, it's easy to lean your weight forward or back into your heels, especially at the bottom of the roll. Be careful not to roll feet in or out.

2.  When you're hanging like a rag doll over your legs: allow your inhalation to massage your back for you. Full deep breaths taken-in behind a hollowed abdominal wall, sends your breath towards the back of the body, expanding your lungs into your tight back muscles. Your expanding lungs become your own masseuse.

3.  The further you roll-down, you will stretch the hamstrings in the back of your legs. Be careful to not overstretch, only go as low as you can while keeping your knees straight.

You may be surprised to find how different your back feels each day, which usually reflects how relaxed or busy you've been the day before. If you've been busy, get rolling - your back will thank you.