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“My back hurts”, I’ve had back pain for years.” I hear it all the time as a Pilates and instructor.  According to back.com 80% of the population will have a significant bout of back pain in their lives and many of those people will end up with chronic or reoccurring pain.  How about you?  Your situation is not uncommon and you don’t have to live your life in pain.

Often back pain develops suddenly after lifting a heavy object or performing some sort of twisting or jerking movement.  Another cause is poor posture and sitting for extended periods of time.  This type of pain is caused when the muscles that support the spinal column become weak and deconditioned over time.  As the muscles become weaker they are unable to withstand heavy lifting or even support the spine properly while standing.  The fact is that 80% of back pain is caused by weak abdominal and back muscles and tight hamstrings.  When the muscles are weak, they spasm and contract which makes the back feel tight all the time.

Unfortunately, when people experience back pain they stop exercising. This makes the muscles in the back and stomach even weaker and tighter.  The cycle spirals downward with less movement and more pain. 

There is hope!  By starting a Pilates program you can probably live mostly pain free or with a significant reduction in your pain.  The primary goal of an exercise program for your spine is to make the muscles of your back, stomach, hips and thighs strong and flexible. These exercises should be incorporated into an overall program of aerobic conditioning such as walking, bike riding, swimming, or jogging.  Exercise is important because the only thing that connects your upper body to your lower body is your spine and the muscles of the torso.  Strong muscles prevent the weight of the body from being carried by the spine in a harmful way.  The stronger the muscles are the more support there is for the spine.

Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.  Start out slow and work you way up to more difficult exercises.  Look for a program that offers core strengthening and be sure the instructor is well trained.  Just doing sit ups will not do the trick.  Be sure you are engaging the deep abdominals and muscles of the spine as well as adding a flexibility component.  The muscles may be sore when you start a program, so are any muscles you work more than you usually do.  By beginning a program and sticking to it, you are taking the steps to a pain free life.