15-Minute Clinical Pilates Routine for Back Pain

15-Minute Clinical Pilates Routine for Back Pain

By now, most of us have at least heard of Pilates. Pilates (named after its creator Joseph Pilates) is a low-impact fitness system of controlled movements, designed to strengthen and lengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and develop some serious core strength… basically, if running and/or jumping aren’t for you (or your precious knees), Pilates could be the answer to your workout prayers.

It’s pretty easy to understand why Pilates is touted as the end-all-be-all of low impact exercises, what with enthusiasts experiencing a range of benefits, from increased energy to better posture, to significant weight loss and health maintenance.

What you may not be familiar with, though, is Clinical Pilates (don’t worry, we didn’t know about it either). While very similar to standard Pilates, the clinical version is done with the input and guidance of a physiotherapist. Clients typically undergo a clinical assessment, and routines and workouts are designed for each client’s specific needs. And in the age of customization, what could be better than a trained professional designing a workout just for you and your body. Especially when you’re experiencing pain or muscle tension.

According to Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst, creator of Your Pilates Physio, back pain tends to be a core issue for most clients. We asked her to develop a 15-minute, at-home routine perfect for back pain sufferers… and boy, does it work!

1. Swimming level 4

Start on your hands and knees, with your hands slightly forward of your shoulders and knees in line with your hips, spine long and chin tucked in (as though you are holding a tennis ball between your chin and your chest). Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, draw the lower tummy in toward your spine. At the same time, extend your right leg behind you to straighten the knee. If you can lift the leg, then do so, but you must ensure your spine stays still (imagine you have a tray of drinks on your back, keep the drinks still!).

Try to keep the lower tummy contraction on throughout the movement. Only add in lifting the opposite arm forward if you feel able to hold the drinks still. The full movement requires lots of control, so start with just the legs and build up as you improve. Repeat 10 times on each side.

2. Cobra

Now lower yourself down to the floor (make sure you have a little cushion to support your forehead). Place your hands on either side of the cushion, and take a deep breath in to prepare. As you exhale, lift your chest away from the floor—imagine peeling it as you extend one vertebrae at a time away. Make sure your hips stay stuck to the floor and only lift as high as you feel comfortable. Repeat six times.

3. Breaststroke preps

Stay on your tummy, and place your hands by your side. Press your pubic bone down to the floor and try to maintain the pressure here. Inhale to prepare, exhale, engage the lower abdominal area, lift the shoulders away from the floor, pull the shoulder blades down towards the base of the spine, and at the same time, lift the hands away from the floor. Maintain this position as you then also lift the head from the cushion. Inhale as you lower back to the floor. If you find it too difficult to lift your head, you can just work the shoulder blades. Repeat 10 times. When you finish this, sit back toward your heels into a shell stretch. Take a deep breath.

4. Clam level 1

Next, turn onto your side. Place your bottom arm underneath your cushion. Bend your knees so your heels are in line with your bottom. Imagine there is a brick wall behind you. Inhale to prepare, exhale, and engage your lower tummy. At the same time, lift your top knee away from the bottom knee. Make sure your back doesn’t press against the brick wall but instead stays still. Keep your hand on top of your hip to help keep the position. Repeat 10 times, then change to the other side and repeat 10 on the other hip.

5. One leg stretch level 1

Now turn to your back with your head on the cushion, knees bent, heels in line with your bottom, arms rested by your side. Imagine there is a marble under your lower back—keep your back in contact with the marble. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, draw in your lower tummy (careful not to crush the marble), then straighten your right knee, as though you are rolling a tennis ball down to the end of your mat. As you inhale, roll the tennis ball back, all the time keeping your back in contact with the marble. Repeat on the left leg, then continue alternating side-to-side for 10 reps.

6. Hip twist level 2

Finish your session with a nice mobilization of the spine. Bring your feet and knees together, take your arms out to the side. Inhale to prepare, exhale, let both knees drop to the right, and keep your shoulders on the floor. Inhale to return. Exhale and take both knees to the left, and inhale to return. Repeat three to four times.

Completing this routine three times a week should help strengthen your core and have your back feeling better in no time. Let us know in the comments below if you try it out, and be sure to follow Your Pilates Physio on Facebook for more routines!