How I beat Back Pain with Pilates: Week 10

Had a back-pain-relief-revelation this week that I must share with you! But first – many professional athletes suffer from back pain. How do they deal with it?

My revelation came the other night, when I decided to try something different as I went to bed. Quite simply, I placed a pillow under my hips. I sleep on my front, and usually wake up with a nice, dull ache in the morning, due to over-extension in my lower back. Imagine sleeping in a semi-cobra stretch position – it’s bound to ache! But after trying the pillow out for just one night, I was really surprised to find that I had next to zero aching the following morning.

Correct pillow placement for stomach sleepers


I first read about the technique of bolstering the hips in a back-care manual but never thought it would apply to me. I always thought the technique was for people with extension problems, not flexion. But it works a treat for me and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I need to..

 Wednesday

Class today was great. Amy said that I was much more balanced in my hip area, the best I’ve been in fact. All that homework has paid off!

  • The most obvious imbalance now is in my right shoulder. I injured it 6 years ago – for some reason it did not heal correctly. An additional aim for my remaining rehab classes is to balance the strength between my shoulders and increase the stability in my right. To do this I will be performing a few homework exercises with a light resistance band:

Straight Arm Pulldowns

External Rotation

Internal Rotation

Shoulder Adduction

These exercises above will help to strengthen and stabilise my right shoulder by: strengthening the teres-minor muscle, strengthening and teaching me how to engage my right rhomboid muscle, teaching me how to engage my right latissimus dorsi muscle to help stabilise the shoulder (instead of using the trapezius muscles) and as a bonus; how to engage my core to prevent my hips from swinging out on each rep.

  • 10 weeks in and I am at a stage where I feel I’m just getting to grips with engaging the correct muscles at the right times. Now the task is learning to make the connections between those various muscle groups, which is quite tricky.
  • The class was so great and engaging that I forgot to film anything! My apologies.

Notes on the regular exercises:

  • I learnt what it is to really engage the abs on the short spine massage lift. No surprises, it’s much harder! Once you have enough bodily awareness to shift the work-load of an exercise into a specific muscle group, it suddenly changes the difficulty level and wakes you up!
  • We discussed applying the false grip to the bar for the long stretch series, especially the padded area around the thumb coming into contact with the bar. This was sparked by wrist alignment; the goal was to keep as straight a line as possible between the wrists and forearms. Sensible stuff, as I’m still battling with a left-wrist sprain that has been ongoing for months.
  • We tried some new exercises (forgotten names?) that I found the coordination quite hard. My shoulder inflexibility reared its ugly head, too. However, I did manage the deep flexion bend – the latter part of both exercises – something that up until now, I have been really scared to get into. My confidence for flexion has increased exponentially since the beginning of November, as has my understanding how to go into a flexion position safely, engaging the core the whole way.
  • We finished the class with some stretches. Stretching regularly at home using the PNF technique proved to have paid off, as my left piriformis (the tighter side) had loosened off a lot. I try to stretch every other day at home, warming the muscles by taking a hot bath before I start.
  •  My right hamstring is still very tight however, so more homework is needed to loosen it off. Amy suggested that out of all my leg and hip muscles, it was most probable that my tight hamstrings were contributing to most of my back pain. Interestingly enough, my hips swung out of position when it came to stretching the tighter, right side – a sign that there is still more work to be done!

Randomly, whilst searching for the various male athletes that partake in Pilates as part of their training, I came across this amusing read about Pilates from Men’s Fitness.

Friday

  • Mat class was fun. The main point was my Teasers. I had the C-curve but no lift in the ribs. Paradoxically, your torso has to be bent over in a C-curve shape, but you also have to lift in the upper ribs, by contracting your upper rectus abdominal muscle to give you some leverage. Hard work!
  • Still tight in my left rhomboid muscles on upper-spine twisting moves.

Check out the next post, Week 11, to see a video showing just how far I’ve really come with those Teasers on the long-box!

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harrycloudfoot

Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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