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Don't Step On the Crack, or You'll Break Your Mother's Back!

I can remember my three little boys running down the sidewalk, giggling with delight while looking back at me to see if I showed any indication that I was in wrenching pain from breaking my back.

"Don't step on the crack, or you'll break your mother's back!" I would tease.

One of them would give me an ornery grin and step heartily on a crevice in front of him. I would hold my back, grimace my face and yell out in agony as if his actions had done the unthinkable. Those are certainly fun memories, but what happens when life, the aging process, an accident or surgery brings on back pain that you never expected?

As a Pilates teacher, I see many clients who come in with low back issues. Some of the issues are more severe than others, like Degenerative Disc Disease, Arthritis, stenosis, fusions, bulging discs, sciatica, SI joint issues, Discectomy, Osteoporosis, Fibromyalgia and more. Their doctors often begin with a plan to give injections for pain, prescribe rest or jump to surgery. Although, these things can bring some relief, we often see that these options mask the pain, can make the pain worse or bring about new pain that is unexpected or more severe than the initial pain.

There have been many studies done on the effectiveness of Pilates for low back pain. One such study in the Clinical Rehabilitation from 2014 (1) determined that there was an improvement in functional capacity, pain and vitality of life when a Pilates program was adhered to over 180 days in patients with non-specified low back pain. There is an overwhelming consensus that points to Pilates as a way of reducing low back pain. Not only does Pilates aid in reducing the pain, but it establishes new vitality in the client, empowering him or her to continue to improve their condition or even reverse some of the effects experienced.

This has been my recent experience with a client who messaged me after adding traction work with the ELEMENTS lumbar belt on the reformer. She said that she was very pleased and felt she may be returning to her pre-back surgery days. As her teacher, I am grateful to be able to share the method of Pilates with her and to establish a program that is designed to cater to her need of back pain relief.

Each person that walks into my studio is uniquely designed. There are anomalies within anatomical structures, more than we realize. I have seen a gentleman who had and extra lumbar vertebrae. Another example would be the hip flexors. Some people have one tendon that connects to their psoas major and illiacus muscles, while some people have two separate tendons that connect to each of these muscles. Some people have a third hipflexor, the psoas minor, and some are missing theirs. When we as Pilates Practitioners are able to treat each individual as a unique body before us, we begin to observe movement as respective to that person's make up. We can begin to see and explore the very things that will aid that person within the method of Pilates.

So, how do you begin to find a Pilates Teacher that knows how to address back pain issues? First, it is important to find a studio that has Pilates teachers who are comprehensively certified by a recognized Pilates school. Pilates schools who offer legitimate training in Pilates are recognized by the Pilates Method Alliance.

Secondly, take Pilates privately from a teacher with experience. This is not to say that a newly certified instructor can not help you. When you find a Pilates teacher with more experience, you ensure that they have experience with a wide range of issues, have an established referral team of massage therapists, physical therapists, physios, chiropractors, and the like. If you do need referred out or need to work in conjunction with another practitioner, it will make your life much easier finding a team you can trust. The last suggestion is to invest in yourself. Many are afraid to spend the money on private training. They may feel like it is a luxury they can not afford, but you can fit in Pilates within your budget and time. Perhaps you can not meet two or three times a week, try once a week, or even once or twice a month. You will be re-patterning movement and posture. Many of the things you learn will be carried over into your daily routine. You will be given the tools to take these amazing Pilates concepts with you, wherever you go. In the long run, an investment now could keep you from highly priced surgeries later, not to mention the recovery you will need to endure. Movement is healing. If your body is able to heal and strengthen areas you are struggling with, wouldn't you want that for yourself? I know I would.

Do not hesitate to reach out to Bela Pilates with concerns you have with starting your Pilates journey. We want you to thrive, not to live in a broken-like state. With Pilates, you can step with confidence on all the cracks in your path.

1. Natour J, Cazotti L de A, Ribeiro LH, Baptista AS, Jones A. Pilates improves pain, function and quality of life in patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation. 2015;29(1):59-68. doi:10.1177/0269215514538981

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