Our relationship with pain can shape our behaviour, our social interactions and the way we live our life. So should it not be important how we go about training/exercising/Pilates-ing (yes I just made up a word)?
One of the things that bring many people into the world of the Pilates Method is pain; usually, back pain. The idea is that the Pilates Method has some sort of magical unique quality that helps cure or fix anyone with a bad back. I’m not sure when (or where) that idea first started being publicised but I know, sadly, it is something that even today is actively promoted and advertised in many corners of the industry.
It’s not magic.
It’s simply not true. The Pilates Method is not magical. It’s definitely very clever in that it is a complete system of movement. It’s smart because it gives you time to focus on your body. It’s fun because you can move your body in lots of different ways. It’s challenging because although you can see progression there is always that ‘next’ movement to conquer. But it is not magical.
But Dan I’ve been told I need to work and strengthen my ‘core’ to fix my back.”
Then be prepared for a Yoda moment my friend – you must unlearn all that you have learned. When trying to treat persistent or chronic back pain the first step would be to ensure you’re getting a good amount of restful sleep. That’s right sleep. Regular good sleep can help reduce inflammation and also reduce sensitivity to pain both of which are good ways to build resilience. Alongside getting good sleep you also need to move. Not ‘core stabilisation’ or abdominal strengthening. Just movement. Resting and avoiding movement may actually make the situation worse with extended periods of rest more likely to prolong pain episodes.
Movement is key
The type of movement could be something as simple as walking or riding a bike, Reformer Leg and Footwork, going for a swim… Movement is the key. The strategy of exercising with specific stabilising or strengthening exercises for the area of the body that has the pain just doesn’t work any better than simple movement. Read more here, here, here and here…
The way in which we handle and treat pain has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and it’s still evolving. One thing that keeps coming up is the current mechanisms to deal with long-term or chronic pain are not working. Prescription drugs and surgery are not the solutions they are touted as being.
If you’re still stuck on the idea of strengthening your abdominals to help with back pain, maybe follow the advice of Pilates teacher extraordinaire Anula Maiberg:
Just pretend your whole body is one big Ab. Work that.”
I think the exciting thing is we don’t know exactly why movement works – good research should always end up with more questions after all. Why would moving your arms help with your back? Why should moving your legs help your shoulder
Perhaps it is because everything is interconnected. Perhaps it’s how your brain processes information it is receiving. Hopefully one day we will understand.
The Pilates Method isn’t a magic cure for back pain. The Pilates Method is movement. Just move.