How Pilates can help you overcome neck and back pain.

Neck and back problems are very common. Though many sufferers are told that a neck or back pain will eventually get better on its own, this may not be the case. Recent research has suggested that if you injure your lower back, for example, you may have recurring problems and still be complaining of some pain and disability 12 months later. If you do suffer from ongoing spinal pain, here are some things to think about when choosing what to do about your problem.

Passive treatments

Passive treatment is where your therapist or doctor does all of the work in helping you overcome your spinal problems. In the initial stages of neck or back injury, common passive treatments such as medication, spinal manipulative therapy, acupuncture etc. may give you good relief. This may help you overcome an episode of spinal pain. However, it is very common for people's spinal pain to recur several times in the ensuing 12 months and still be present to some degree at the end of this 12 month period. Having no treatment, or an over reliance on passive treatment, may be part of the reason these spinal problems linger on.

Active treatment

Prolonged abstinence from activity is not advised. An important part of your treatment should be 'active' therapy. This involves performing range of movement and strengthening exercises, as well as returning to normal activity as soon as you can tolerate it. Physiotherapy is very much about involving the patient in therapy and teaching the patient to do self treatment exercises to enhance recovery. Active treatment makes you less reliant on passive treatments.

Your 'core' muscles

Recent research has suggested that to effectively control neck or back pain, one should try to improve the so called 'core' muscles. These are the muscles that hold your joints in the correct position during activity. If they are not working properly, your joints may undergo excessive load and strain. This can lead to tissue damage and pain. Poor 'core' muscle control may be one reason people develop spinal problems. It may also be a reason people suffer recurring bouts of trouble.

What is Pilates

In simple terms, Pilates is the performance of various exercises whilst paying particular attention to contracting the 'core' muscles. There are some traditional Pilates exercises and moves that grew out of the dance/ballet scene in America in the 50's. In recent times, the variety of Pilates and Pilates like exercises has increased significantly. There are Pilates equipment ( e.g. using the 'Reformer') based exercises, mat exercises, exercises in water, exercises with elastic tubing and exercises using gym equipment like dumbbells.

The difference between clinical Pilates and fitness Pilates

Physiotherapists have generally embraced Pilates as a way of helping spinal pain sufferers. It helps to improve their 'core' muscles to try and overcome their problem and prevent recurrence. It is also used to try and enhance performance in athletes. In these circumstances, the Pilates exercises are carried out after the physiotherapist has examined the patient and worked out what exercises will suit the patient's particular problems. The physiotherapist closely supervises the exercises in relation to how they affect the patient's spinal problem. This is termed 'clinical Pilates'.

The sort of Pilates carried out in gyms and non-physio studios is designed to help increase your fitness, tone up, lose weight and improve your posture. It is called 'fitness Pilates'. It is generally not carried out by a qualified health professional and may not suit a spinal pain sufferer's particular circumstances.

When to try Pilates

If you have ongoing or recurrent spinal problems, please contact us about starting Pilates. After an initial assessment, a few 1:1 sessions are often helpful followed by attending Pilates Classes and/or home exercises.

Pilates now available at Plympton, Lockleys, Woodville, and Modbury.