Pilates and Back Pain


By Devra Swiger

As a young woman of about 26, I began to suffer from crippling back pain. I had no idea what caused it, but all of a sudden, the pain was so sharp and crippling that I could barely walk. I ended up seeing chiropractors. Physical therapists, doctors and just about anyone who claimed they could fix back pain. The diagnosis was almost always over-training, and no one really had a good answer for me. This continued off and on for many years until one day I discovered Pilates.

I was teaching a range of fitness modules including step aerobics, water fitness and cycling. I tended to be a gentler and more cautious teacher due to the fact that I had been injured and I didn’t want anyone to go through what I was going through. At the time, I was also a freelance writer and I often wrote articles for fitness journals. One day, the idea of writing an article on Pilates came to me. I knew very little about Pilates, but I was open to learning. This was the late 90’s and at that time there were not nearly as many studios or teachers in the United States as there are today. I interviewed the owner of the only Pilates studio in Charlotte, NC and I immediately fell in love with the method. I then began my own personal journey of learning the Pilates method.

Now 20 years later, I have my own studio and I practice Pilates regularly. My back pain is gone and when I do get the occasional spasm, I know what to do.

I have had great success working with clients with back pain. Everybody’s pain is unique and how we deal with it is also very personal. By working with clients and finding which movements may cause the pain and which movements help to relieve it, we can put together a program. In larger group classes it is nearly impossible to fix everyone’s back pain with the same series of exercises.

Back pain can result from many causes including aging, poor posture, old injuries etc. Trying to address and fix the problem involves doing a series of movements on the various pieces of Pilates equipment and then finding a program that the client can do at home. The client and I then decide how many Pilates sessions a week the client should do taking into consideration time, money and availability. I always give daily homework which can be done in just a few minutes.

Back pain is extremely common these days and given our lifestyle with cell phones, computers and commuting by car, it is getting to be even more common. Even people as young as 15 or 16 suffer from extreme back pain. It’s no longer the disease of old people.

I swear by Pilates as I feel as if it saved me from a life of back pain. My goal in life is to help others find relief from back pain through the Pilates method.

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