Yoga and Pilates: Two Good Options for Lower Back Pain

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, one of the first things our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey is likely to recommend is a conservative approach involving physical therapy and exercise. If exercise is something that you’re interested in pursuing on your own, both Pilates and yoga can provide you with significant relief.

If you’re not familiar with Pilates, the first thing you need to understand is that it is a less spiritual, more physical version of very similar exercise moves. In fact, its creator, Joe Pilates, based the technique on a combination of yoga and other physical activities that he put together when he was trying to build up his own strength and physique after a sickly childhood.

After pursuing wrestling, gymnastics, martial arts, body building and yoga, he studied anatomy and then mixed everything that he found most appealing into a new form of exercise that added the one element he felt was missing: building up a strong core.

The end result was something that he originally called Contrology and which later evolved into what we today know as Pilates after he used it to help prisoners of war to recover their strength.

Though there are several similarities between yoga and Pilates — and many of the postures found in yoga are also practiced in Pilates — there is a significant difference in the level of core muscle engagement.

Though many yoga moves do strengthen core posture muscles, that strength is not the goal. Pilates also frequently involves the use of spring-driven machines. Still, both are considered excellent practices for releasing low back muscle tension and increasing awareness of the hip joints and posture.

They both increase flexibility, strength and balance, and these attributes can go a long way towards reducing pain and stiffness in the lumbar spine as well as in the cervical spine.

There is very little scientific research that has looked into the benefits of Pilates for lower back pain, but there have been a considerable number of studies supporting the use of yoga for chronic spine pain.  Most of these studies point to yoga’s benefits for short-term rather than long-term relief, as well as for providing the strength and postural improvements that can potentially prevent back pain from occurring in the first place.

For those who prefer yoga, the Oklahoma Medical Association’s study also gives weight to the meditative aspects of the practice, finding that the breathing exercises and stress relief offered by yoga provided an additional benefit that decreased dysfunction and pain.

If you are not sure which of the two practices is best for you, you are encouraged to try both and see which one suits you best. If you are still experiencing pain, contact our lumbar spine specialty practice to set up an appointment to see our lumbar spine specialist.

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