The Art & Science of Caring for Back Pain
Seattle’s Celebrated Exercise for Back Pain
The Art and Science of Caring for Back Pain
For Joseph Pilates, a healthy spine was the key to physical and emotional well-being. He believed that you’re only as young as your spine is flexible. “Never slouch,” Joe Pilates advised, “as doing so compresses the lungs, overcrowds other vital organs, rounds the back, and throws you off balance.”
The movement method Joseph Pilates created, which he originally called Contrology, develops the deep muscles of the back and abdomen to support the spine, and uses breathing to improve posture. Joe once said with confidence, “I’m fifty years ahead of my time.”
As it turns out, he may have been right. A study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that people with chronic lower back pain who practiced Pilates for just four weeks experienced a significant decrease in low back pain and functional disability. They also maintained these results over a 12-month follow-up period.
At Studio Evolve, we’ve helped many clients find relief from chronic back pain through regular sessions. We’ve also helped clients avoid the need for back surgery and recover three-dimensional spinal movement post-surgery. Our approach is part art, part science, and all about moving you through your day with more enjoyment and ease.
Healing back pain begins with understanding the spine.
A healthy spine can move in three directions: forward and back, side to side and turning/rotating.
The structure of the spine is like a slinky or an accordion, with all the joints working in concert together. Ideally, we are able to bend the whole spine equally in all three directions.
I want to move with ease!
Habitual movement patterns contribute to pain
Here’s how life can get your spine stuck:
We are a very forward-facing culture - between sitting, driving, computing, we often lose side-to-side and turning/rotating mobility in our spines.
With so much sitting, our hip flexors and hamstrings become shortened, which can put stress on the low back. We also lose strength in the deep abdominal and lower body muscles that support the spine. The habitual forward head position many of us assume while using a computer can impair neck and shoulder function. Too much sitting is toxic.
When we use one part of our spine more than others, like lower back or neck, that one part will start to wear out. Think of bending a wire at the same point over and over again. Eventually that point will snap. This can manifest as back pain, pulled muscles, a sore neck, or headaches. Long-term problems include herniated or compressed discs.
What Studio Evolve Can do about it:
We start by helping you get to know your posture and body mechanics. We’ll take a look at what parts of your spine are moving, and what parts are not; your seated and standing alignment; your hip and hamstring flexibility; and your head placement.
Our sessions are designed to equally mobilize and support all parts of your spine, creating more pliability in the whole structure. Pilates uses spring-based equipment that gives you feedback for proper alignment as you activate deep core musculature. Gyrotonic uses a combination of weights on pulleys and dynamic fluid movement to help you traction your spine into length as you build strength.
Both approaches create elongated, strong postural muscles to support your spine in all three directions of movement and at rest.
By practicing thoughtful movement with a caring teacher, you’ll create new muscle memory that over time, begins to work even when you’re not thinking about it.
I am ready to strengthen my spine.
We empower you to start feeling better
The great news? You can take the principles we teach at the studio into your life right now and begin your journey out of back pain.
We’re going to start with some homework for you.
Quick shifts to begin your journey out of back pain:
When it comes to your body, you are how you move (or, in many cases, how you don’t move). That’s because your body adapts to the position you assume for most of the day.
Your Back Health Homework!
This brings us to Homework Piece #1: Start noticing your movement patterns during daily activities. If you sit at a computer most days, check your desk set-up. Do your chair, monitor and keyboard placement make it easy for you to maintain healthy body mechanics throughout the workday?
How are you carrying your handbag or laptop bag? Slinging that weight over just one shoulder can throw off your spinal alignment. How does it feel if you carry the bag diagonally across your body, or switch to a backpack and use both straps?
And are you reading this article while slouched over your phone with your neck craning forward? (You are definitely not alone - we teach healthy alignment for a living and still catch ourselves doing this all the time!)
Try sitting while hinging your torso forward at your hips, keeping your spine straight. There should be a straight diagonal line from your tailbone through the crown of your head. Maintain this hinge and put your elbows on your thighs to support the weight of your torso. Now look down at your phone. Notice if this feels any different in your low back.
On to Homework Piece #2: Taking short movement breaks throughout the day, whenever possible. These movements can be simple, and we promise you don’t have to get sweaty to feel the benefits! Switch from sitting to standing, take a quick walk around the block, point and flex your feet, roll your wrists in one direction and then the other direction, roll your shoulders forward and back. The point is to move through a range of postures instead of getting stuck in one position.