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Here is the Best Pilates Workout for Back Pain

According to SingHealth, a staggering 80% of adult Singaporeans have suffered from low back pain at some point in their lives.

Considering sitting, whether in an office chair or in the car, is one of the leading causes of back pain, its near ubiquity is hardly a surprise!

Lower back pain as the result of sitting for extended periods of time occurs because of increased stress on the back and shoulders which puts pressure on your back muscles and spinal discs.

Considering how much time we spend seated, between being at work and commuting, this is hardly a surprise. This is why pilates for back pain is becoming more popular at gyms in Singapore.

As you gain a deeper understanding of pilates for back pain, you can help to manage and even alleviate this discomfort. As it turns out, there are many benefits to practicing Pilates.

Let's take a look.

What Exactly is Pilates?

Pilates started nearly 100 years ago! It was developed by Joseph Pilates and has some key differences to other types of exercise.

One of the biggest differences is that the focus with Pilates is on concentration. The goal with pilates is never to be exhausted or straining your muscles, instead, workouts are based on breathing and repetitions of stretching and strengthening exercises.

This means that pilates can have all kinds of different applications and be suitable for everyone from people recovering from injuries to pregnant mums.

There are two styles of pilates; one is mat-based and the other is equipment-based.

Mat-based Pilates depends on gravity and your own body weight for strength training whereas equipment-based training works with a spring-loaded carriage, weights and other pieces of equipment.

Tips Before You Start Pilates for Back Pain

Pilates is an effective way to relieve back pain, but please keep these safety tips in mind before you start!

Before you get started with any of these exercises on your own, we highly recommend taking a Pilates class with a certified instructor. The instructor will guide you through the exercises and make sure you are doing them properly. Attempting these exercises on your own can result in further injury if done improperly.

Additionally, it is a good idea to check with your health practitioner if you have a history of back pain or if doing any of these exercises causes you discomfort.

Don't forget to breathe! Taking deep breaths will help to engage your core.

Never push your body further than feels natural while doing these exercises.

Your back muscles and abs need to work together! Make sure to engage your core muscles to avoid straining your back.

Try your best to keep your shoulders and hips even to minimize uneven pressure on one side of your body.

Easy Stretches for Back Pain

Start your Pilates for back pain exercise routine with some of these stretches to get your muscles warmed up.

Knee to Chest – For this stretch, lie on your back and hug first one knee to your chest and then the other. Hold each side for a few seconds until you feel the stretch in your lower back and breathe deeply throughout the stretch.

Lying Knee Chest – This stretch is similar to the one above where you are lying on your back with your legs bent one at a time. Only this time, bring each knee across your body until you feel the stretch in your back muscles.

Neck and Shoulder Rotations – These stretches are quite self-explanatory but make sure you spend the time doing them to prevent soreness or tightness occurring while doing other exercises.

Cobra Stretch – Channel your inner snake while stretching out your abs and the muscles in your lower back. Begin this stretch by lying on your stomach. Use your arms to lift your torso upwards and press your hips and palms into the floor. You should stop lifting your torso and hold the position once you feel those muscles stretch. Avoid shrugging the shoulder during this exercise to minimise the strain on your neck and shoulder. Keep the shoulder rolled back while widening the collarbone at the front. 

Try These Pilates for Back Pain Exercises

All of these exercises are mat-based Pilates, so you can easily do them in the comfort of your own home or even in a hotel when you are traveling. Remember that doing a bit of exercising and stretching every day is the key to improved help.

Pelvic Rocking

Start your pilates for back pain routine with the Pelvic Tilt. This exercise is a great place to start engaging your core muscles and strengthening your spine.

Begin this position by laying on your back so with all of your muscles relaxed and feet flat on the floor. As you exhale, engage your core muscles by curling your tailbone towards your belly button so that your spine is pressed against the floor. Then inhale as you go back to the relaxed position.

Repeat this exercise several times until you feel your core muscles engaged.

Cat Stretch

The Cat-cow pose is another exercise you should place at the beginning of your routine. It helps to open up your spine because it alternates between stretching and extending your spine.

Begin on all fours and make sure that your wrists are in a straight line with your shoulders and the same is true with your knees and hips.

To become the cow, drop your belly with your shoulders rolled back and look towards the ceiling as you inhale.

Next, imagine how a cat curves their back when they stretch. Exhale while arching your back just like a cat. To make this exercise more difficult, try curling your toes under your feet and lifting your knees an inch or two off the mat.

Remember to always keep your spine extended and your neck supported while performing this exercise. For best results, perform each move slowly so that you can feel your muscles stretching.

Shoulder Bridge

A more difficult version of the previous exercise, we use the Pelvic Bridge in pilates for back pain because it strengthens not only the lower back, but other muscle groups as well.

For this exercise, begin by lying on your back when your feet flat on the floor a few inches from the tips of your fingers. Your hands should be flat on the floor.

Engage your core while simultaneously pressing your feet on the floor in order to lift your hips off of the floor. To create the bridge, your shoulders and knees should create a line. Be very careful that you don't roll over to your neck while lifting to the bridge position.Weight should remain from shoulder to knee in a straight line while in bridge. 

Always keep your abdominals engaged while performing the Pelvic Floor otherwise you can strain the muscles in your lower back.

Half Roll Back

The Half Roll Back serves two purposes; half of the exercise stretches out the back muscles while the other half works your abdominal muscles.

To complete the Half Roll Back, begin by sitting up straight with your legs in slightly bent at the knee in front of you and your hands placed lightly behind your thighs.

Next, exhale and tuck your chin towards your chest and begin curving your spine into the letter C backwards. Finally, you inhale as you curve your spine bowing forward towards the thighs until your arms are straight returning to starting position. 

Spinal Twist

The slow rotation of the spine stretches out the back muscles and improves spinal support.

There are two variations of this exercise. One method is the traditional Spinal Twist which you begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you, feet flexed and knees and ankles are each pressed together.

Put your arms straight out to your sides and then exhale while rotating your torso to one side. 

Alternatively, you can do the Supine Spinal Twist pilates for back pain exercise which begins with you laying on your back with your feet on the floor and again your arms are stretched out.

Do this move slowly at first, so you can concentrate on your form. Rotate both knees to one side while at the same time keeping both shoulder blades flat on the floor. Make sure you can feel the stretch in your spine by holding it on each side for 5-10 seconds while breathing.


No, no you don't need to put on your swimsuit. Although that kind of swimming can help relieve back pain too (as long as you're doing the correct stroke)!

Begin this pilates for back pain exercise by lying on your stomach with your arms and legs extended straight away from your body like a 'superman'.

Next, raise your arms and leg off the mat while keeping your body long and straight. Finally, flutter your arms and legs, just as if you were swimming. Don't forget to keep your core engaged and keep your belly button off the mat. Keep the hands and knees straight throughout the exercise.

Single Thigh Stretch

Sometimes lower back pain may be the result of tension in your hips. Removing this tension first helps the muscles in your lower back to relax.

Doing this pilates for back pain exercise requires a little bit of balance, but after a few practice tries, you should be all set. Begin by placing your palms on the mat next to your left foot with your right foot extended behind you on the mat.

You should be resting your weight with your right knee on the mat. Balance your weight between your left hand and right knee and raise your right hand towards the ceiling. Repeat the same on both sides.

Kneeling Arm and Leg Reach

This is a relatively easy pilates for back pain exercise which improves core stability without putting pressure on your back.

Similar to the Cat-cow position, start on your hands and knees with your wrists and shoulders in a line, as well as your knees directly below your hips. Hold your back in a neutral position so that your spine is curved naturally.

Slide your shoulders down away from your ears and use your shoulders to brace yourself as you extend an opposing arm and leg while keeping them even with the floor.

Hold this position for several seconds before lowering your arm and leg. All movements should be controlled with no swinging of your arms or legs. Repeat the same movements for the alternative arm and leg.

Ab Prep

As we mentioned earlier in the safety tips, your back muscles and abdominal muscles need to work together, especially with these pilates for back pain exercises. The Chest Lift works to strengthen your abs as long as you make sure to engage your abs.

For the Chest Lift, begin by lying with your back on the mat and feet on the floor with your toes pointing in front of you.

Begin with your spine in the neutral position. You can measure if you're in the right position by seeing if you can put your hand between your spine and the floor. Place your hands behind your head and inhale, making sure to keep your elbows parallel to the floor.

Lift your torso off the floor (make sure you're using your abs!) until your shoulders are just off the floor. Your neck should never feel tense or strained while performing this exercise.

Shell stretch

You can finish your routine with the Shell Stretch, which is both calming and useful for stretching the muscles in your back.

Anyone who has participated in a rather difficult yoga class knows to appreciate the few moment's rest that the Shell Stretch affords.

Start this pose from a kneeling position while sitting on your heels. Keep your feet together and stretch your knees as far as possible. Round forwards and relax with your forehead against the floor.

Depending on how much you want to stretch, you can either leave your arms relaxing at your sides or stretch them forwards. The key to stretching your arms forwards is to make your fingers crawl along the floor.

We recommend this position for the end of your Pilates for back pain routine as it gives you time to relax and reflect on the time you've spent making yourself healthier and happier.

Book A Pilates Class Now!

For all of these exercises, remember to listen to your body and stop if muscles feel like they are tight and straining.

The best way to make sure you are doing the right pilates for back pain is by signing up for a complimentary 30-45mins consultation-trial with an accredited instructor at Pilatique Pilates Studio.

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