Pilates for Back Pain

If you’ve ever had back pain, then you know how limiting it can be. Do any of these sound familiar? 

  • You can’t fall asleep because you have back pain.
  • You can’t pick up your grandkids because you have back pain.
  • You can’t do the outside chores because you have back pain.
  • You dread your work day because you have back pain.
  • And you refuse to sit in that chair because of your back pain.

With all that you can’t do without pain, we know you’re probably wondering why you should come to a Pilates class. And we know that when you first see a Reformer, you may likely think, “I definitely cannot use that contraption with my back pain.”

What we’d like you to know is that the Pilates Reformer is actually one of the best tools you can utilize to minimize and recover from any kind of back pain.

How Pilates Is Different  

Join us for Pilates classes and you’ll soon realize that Pilates is not comparable to a typical gym workout. (And trust us; we understand that working out at the gym is likely also on the list of things you fear doing with your back pain.) There are a few key factors as to why the Pilates equipment can still be utilized when you can not imagine doing anything.  

Every exercise can be modified, so none of the exercises should trigger your back pain. And while Pilates is absolutely a workout, it is not strenuous like other modalities of exercises can be.

Additionally, the Pilates reformer is great for individuals with back pain because the machine is supportive. For example, both arm and leg work can be done laying down with the reformer. And all of the other hooks, springs, and straps that you see…believe it or not, those provide a sense of support through exercises as well. The resistance training methodology works to create length and strength in your muscle fibers reducing disk compression and vertebral contact.

Primary Pilates Objectives

Two primary objectives of Pilates are to build core strength and teach proper body alignment. Low back pain is frequently caused by weak abdominal muscles and poor spinal posture. Weakness and poor posture cause spinal muscles to be overstretched or shortened, which causes soft tissue aggravation.

The abdominal weakness referred to here is more specifically weakness in the transverse abdominus (TrA). The TrA is the deepest abdominal muscle and functions to stabilize the torso and spine. Accordingly, proper activation of the TrA is essential for recovering and preventing low back pain. Pilates is the best exercise modality for TrA strengthening. The reason why is that every—yes, every—exercise requires TrA recruitment when done properly. Beyond the focuses of TrA activation and alignment, the Pilates reformer is an excellent means for improving neuromuscular connection. Improving neuromuscular connection is important because it has been proven to reduce pain.


Perhaps you don’t suffer from general back pain. Maybe your cause is more specific, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. We still highly encourage you to come to Pilates class. As mentioned, every exercise has a modification, and improving neuromuscular connection is essential for all types of recovery. Let’s say for example that you cannot do spinal flexion— this is not a problem, even if it is a group class!

We will always offer a modification, progression, or regression of an exercise that is safe for you. Further, our studios are very experienced with working with clients recovering from numerous injuries. So as long as you share your concerns with us, we will always work within your capabilities.


Lastly, many physical therapists refer their back pain patients to Pilates once they are through with physical therapy. Pilates offers an outlet for patients to continue to maintain their strength so that they do not regress after therapy. This is to say that Pilates is worth your while for recovering from and preventing low back pain. So, don’t hesitate to come see us before, during, or after you visit the physical therapist for low back pain. We want to assist you in your recovery and beyond!

To having your back,

MPS and Central Core

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