The Short of the Long (Spine)

pilates helps back painI’m not one to brag, but I totally got out of bed today. This is a BFD (big freaking deal, if you will) seeing as three days ago I found myself on the floor scared to move after attempting to get up from playing with a two year old. I should have never stopped playing with that two year old. Cue the low back pain. Anyone who has experienced throwing out their low back knows exactly what pain I’m talking about. Muscle spasms that don’t go away and the fear that if you move the pain is going to come rushing back. It’s literally the worst. Not only physically but, mentally. The fear of the pain coming back is paralyzing (figuratively… mostly). 

This wasn’t my first rodeo with low back pain, so I returned to the basics. Improvement requires movement. 

Let me rewind for you. Back pain is actually the reason I got on a Reformer in the first place. It was either physical therapy or Reformer Pilates. The added bonus of shaping and toning while strengthening and rehabbing got me. So Reformer Pilates it was. It didn’t happen overnight. There were times in my beginning sessions that I stopped performing the instructed exercise because it didn’t feel right, but overtime everything started to click and I learned 3 key principles for a healthy back through the practice of Pilates: 

  1. Posture Correction: The spine functions best when it’s aligned properly, allowing oxygen and signals to move freely through your body…much like your brain. Good posture is a delicate balance between strengthening the muscles that need more strength and stretching the muscles that need more flexibility.
  2. Core Strength: The spine needs to be supported by the muscles that surround it; core muscles. When the core muscles are strong, they can be used to initiate the movement you’re performing (picking up your child, running, walking, carrying groceries…the list goes on). Strong core muscles assist and protect your back so it doesn’t have to do the work all by it’s lonesome.
  3. Body Awareness: This is all about learning to be more aware of what your body is doing and where it is in space. Being aware of alignment, posture and what muscles should be working together to efficiently perform a task is key for injury prevention.

It’s funny…I know these principles.  Heck, I live for these principles. They are what got me out of the depression that is chronic back pain and back to being me (with better posture). Yet I still found myself on the floor unable to move earlier this week. Things happen. Sometimes for unknown reasons. But letting the fear limit the improvement is not the message your body is trying to send. The message was more like, “um, hey, can you take better care of me so I can take better care of you?”.

I guess it’s true what they say: “it’s a practice, not a perfect”. I’ll be back to work on my practice next week, but for now it’s icy hot and rest.