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  • Writer's pictureDr. Harold Pierre

Pilates Exercises the Missing Piece of Your Chronic Lower Back Pain?

Is Pilates the Missing Piece of Your Chronic Back Pain Puzzle?


Managing chronic lower back pain can be deeply frustrating for the countless individuals desperately seeking lasting relief. This irritating condition often starts from an injured disc that bulges placing pressure on nearby nerves. The pain can also be from rigid facet joints in the spine shifting in manners that generate aches in the low back, especially when you get up. Despite the best efforts of doctors prescribing rest, physical therapy, medications, and procedures, many are left dealing with the constant discomfort of lower back pain.


However, in an interesting study, researchers examined whether one particular pilates exercise method could decrease common causes of chronic low back pain. They discovered that when performed properly under a certified pilates instructor, the coordinated motions of pilates exercises frequently strengthen stability in the core muscles, help regain optimal movement patterns, and ultimately, relieve tension and reduce back pain symptoms.


To get the full benefits, a commitment to hour-long pilates sessions is required in return for incremental improvements in strength and flexibility and a gradual reduction of the underlying low back pain over a period of weeks. The exercises help articulate the spine to stretch and strengthen back muscles and stabilize the pelvis. Before abandoning all hope or relying solely on medication, consider adding pilates exercises as part of a multifaceted treatment plan. It may be the missing piece necessary to solve your back pain puzzle.


The Benefits Of Pilates Exercises For Chronic Lower Back Pain


Woman Pilates ball exercises fitness isolated copy

The growing evidence supporting pilates exercises for decreasing chronic lower back pain stems from multiple high-quality scientific studies. Numerous in-depth reviews of research have demonstrated that doing pilates can help substantially reduce pain levels compared to minimal or no exercise, as quantified on prevalent scales like the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire. Though other workouts like stationary cycling provide comparable pain relief and functional improvements, one intriguing study uncovered greater and more lasting reductions in disability and fear avoidance behaviors specifically from utilizing pilates equipment rather than floor mats alone.


These collective decreases in low back pain symptoms have been attributed to the integrated approach of pilates movements. The emphasis on proper spinal alignment in a neutral position, quality-controlled mobility, coordinated inhale, exhale breathing techniques, and intensive core muscle engagement appears to retrain faulty movement and coordination habits that often aggravate chronic lower back pain. For example, by activating deep muscles like the, hip flexors, or abdominal muscles in a controlled manner, pilates help stability and takes pressure off sensitized structures along the spine. The multidimensional movements also enhance total body flexibility, posture, and strength in ways that relieve tension and ease discomfort by addressing underlying mechanical causes of lower back pain.


Specifically, pilates trains optimal patterns of motion while increasing tension control through challenged areas of the lower back. Over time, this lessens strain on irritated nerves, improves joint mobility, restores ideal curvature to areas of the spine, and provides a gentle aerobic effect to promote healing. Regular practice allows the body to integrate these structural and neuromuscular changes, gradually transitioning it out of the pain cycle. By working the body as an integrated whole rather than isolated problem spots, pilates uniquely reconditions the mind-body linkages to reduce low back pain.


How Much Pilates Exercise is Needed?


An important factor emerging from studies is the concept of a “dose response” to pilates training for lower back pain relief. Multiple reviews noted that meaningful clinical improvements in low back pain were seen after approximately 20 hours of cumulative pilates exercises.


Studies showing significant chronic lower back pain relief implemented hour-long pilates sessions, performed 2-3 times per week, for a total of 6-12 weeks on average. The pilates exercises in these studies focused on articulating the spine, strengthening core muscles, stabilizing the pelvis, and regaining optimal movement patterns. Less frequent or shorter duration pilates programs tended to induce less dramatic changes in reducing lower back pain symptoms.


This indicates that while pilates can act as the missing piece helping solve chronic lower back pain, commitment to regular, long-term pilates training is ideal to experience the full benefits of strengthening, flexibility, and postural improvements that relieve tension and discomfort.


Is Pilates Exercise Right for You?


Current research makes a strong case that Pilates works well as part of a comprehensive management plan for those with chronic low back pain when performed with proper frequency and duration.


Talk to your healthcare provider about whether adding Pilates exercise could aid your specific back pain puzzle. Under guidance of a trained Pilates instructor, start slowly and gradually increase duration and intensity aiming for over 20 total hours to optimize results. Be patient through early soreness, track your symptoms, and adjust your program based on your unique response.


Stick with it - successfully solving a highly complex, individualized chronic pain disorder like CLBP through exercise requires determination to find your personal missing piece. Pilates offers tangible hope that you can complete your pain relief puzzle.


Patti, A., Thornton, J. S., Giustino, V., Drid, P., Paoli, A., Schulz, J. M., Palma, A., & Bianco, A. (2023). Effectiveness of Pilates exercise on low back pain: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Disability and Rehabilitation. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2023.2251404


Lin, H.-T., Hung, W.-C., Hung, J.-L., Wu, P.-S., Liaw, L.-J., & Chang, J.-H. (2016). Effects of Pilates on patients with chronic non-specific low back pain: a systematic review. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(10), 2961–2969.


About the author: 


Dr. Harold Pierre is a board-certified anesthesiologist and addiction medicine specialist with over 20 years of experience. He is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Preventive Medicine.


This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician or another qualified medical professional. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.







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