Dear doctor, can Pilates really help with back pain and posture?

25 March 2019

Q: I have a desk job and often suffer from back pain. A friend mentioned Pilates helped with her back pain and posture! Is this true?

A: Yes, Pilates may help with back pain and posture. People with back pain often change how they move or move less. Our brain’s protective mechanisms sometimes kick in to keep the body still, allowing it to recover. Because of this, muscles can become deconditioned, joints can get stiff and posture can change. Ultimately, this inactivity can actually prevent your pain from improving.

Pilates can help you to get moving with confidence, in a controlled and gradual way without making your symptoms worse. It can also make you more aware of posture and help you get back to a position that puts less strain through the body and lets you move more efficiently.

There are several key components to Pilates, including central (core) control, strength, posture, mobility, stretching and breathing.

The intensity of exercise is adjusted to ensure you are working at a level appropriate for you. Small equipment such as stretchy bands, weight and balls can also be used to make your exercises harder and more interesting. You should provide your teacher with information about your health history before you start and they may want to assess you too.

Ultimately, the key to success is doing a combination of exercise or activities that you enjoy so that you continue with them into the long term. If you would like to try Pilates, the key is to find a class instructor you trust and who understands your health history. Always listen to your body and strike a good balance between taking breaks from your desk, exercise and pacing.  

Sarah Waters is a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.


The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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