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Can Yoga and Pilates Help with Back Pain?

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Back pain is often caused when your core is not strong enough to protect your spine. The number one job of your core is to provide stability and protection for your spinal column. When this doesn’t happen, due to some sudden, jarring motion or a weak core, you experience some level of back pain.

There are plenty of exercises which you should avoid when back pain is an issue. On the other hand, certain forms of physical fitness are perfect for helping you heal your injured back. Can yoga and Pilates help with your back pain? Let’s take a look.

Both yoga and Pilates require a lot of stretching. Unless you have suffered some major back injury, doctors recommend exercise as a treatment for back problems. The key is in knowing which movements and forms to practice, and which to avoid. Accordingly, not all Pilates and yoga movements or positions are conducive to back pain recovery and treatment.

Pilates and Back Pain

Few official studies have been conducted on the benefits of practicing Pilates for back pain relief. Concerning clinical research, the January, 2013 issue of BMC Medical Research Methodology found that “Pilates cannot be recommended for reducing pain and disability in people with chronic low back pain”, simply because there was not enough research conducted in that area.

In other words, Pilates may not aggravate your back pain, but it may have no positive effect either. So when choosing a Pilates routine, make sure it is not jarring. Steer clear from movements which require you to twist at your waist.

Back Pain Relief and Yoga

There are dozens of yoga positions. When you add the variations of those positions, you have literally hundreds of different asanas you can perform. Thanks to this wide selection of movements, there are some yoga poses which have been proven effective for back pain relief.

In the January, 2015 issue of the International Journal of Yoga, a study was cited which showed the “effectiveness of Iyengar yoga in treating spinal (back and neck) pain.” That particular form of yoga proved effective for treating chronic spine pain in the short term. Similar short-term back pain relief from yoga was also referred to in the 2013 issue of the Clinical Journal of Pain.

In both cases, the spiritual, meditative properties of yoga were just as important as practicing back-friendly poses for offering back pain relief. Remember, exercise is an effective back pain treatment. Research tends to show that you may want to avoid Pilates, and focus on yoga, if back pain relief is your exercise goal.

A Beginner’s Guide to Using an Exercise Ball

An exercise ball, also called a Swiss, stability or physio ball, works the body in a way no other piece of exercise equipment can. And because of its uniqueness, the exercises performed on one are great for increasing flexibility and balance, along with strengthening the abdominal core and lower back.

While an exercise ball is great to help alleviate lower back pain, it is can also be used to increase one’s fitness level, lose weight, increase muscle strength and is even good exercise when pregnant or when other forms of working out are difficult or even impossible to do. Like with all exercise programs, be sure to check with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise ball program.

When using an exercise ball, one’s awareness of hands and feet in relation to the space around is heightened due to the instability of the ball itself. Because it rolls around easily and bouncy, the body is constantly reacting to this instability by making adjustments by using the abdominal core muscles in an effort to keep the body on the ball. This awareness is called proprioception. Without it, one would fall off the ball.

Sample Common Exercises:

Exercise Ball Squat

This is a stretching exercise to get the feel of an exercise ball. Start by backing up against a vertical wall and putting the exercise ball between the wall and your back. Move your legs so they are shoulder-width apart and comfortably in front of your hips. At this point, you should be leaning back against the ball. Now slowly bend at the knees and squat down while leaning back putting pressure on the ball. Hold for 2 seconds before slowly coming back up to the starting position. Do 10 to 12 repetitions.

Reverse Extension

Place your chest on the exercise ball. With your hands out in front of you and abdominal muscles pulled in tight, walk your body forward until the exercise ball is at your kneecaps, keeping your back in a straight line the whole time. Now walk your body back until the exercise ball is back at the starting position. Repeat at least 5 times.

Inclined Crunches

Start by laying on your back on a floor, arms parallel to your sides with your feet on top of the ball. Now raise your upper body up as if you were doing a sit-up, but only come up until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Hold for 1 second before lowering back down. Having your feet raised and on an unstable surface adds another element to the exercise making it more difficult. Do at least 5 repetitions.

These are only 3 of the many exercises that can be done on an exercise ball, depending on which part of the body you want to work or your goal for using an exercise ball.

The instability of the ball (and the body’s automatic reaction to the instability) is the key to why using an exercise ball is so effective. They are inexpensive to buy and fun to use. Try one soon!

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