Category Archives: Pain Management

Sports injuries are all too common, but there are easy ways to prevent them. In fact, one of the best ways that athletes can prevent and even rehabilitate sports injuries is through the regular practice of Pilates.

Regular practice of Pilates actually prevents injuries, and can even speed up the recovery process. Here’s how:

Pilates focuses on problem areas

Pilates concentrates on specific body parts, isolating areas and improving their functionality. These movements aren’t just thrown around; they are conscious and intentional at all times during the workout. Practitioners of Pilates learn to isolate muscle groups that need to be strengthened, a powerful tool to have when it comes to preventing injuries. Athletes who practice Pilates learn to manipulate the areas just around injured parts of the body, or to ward off injury by focusing on places that are more prone to injury.

This method of exercise is adaptable, allowing users to figure out exactly where they need to go with their movements in order to get the full depth of Pilates benefits. Different areas of the body are more or less likely to become injured based on the needs of the specific sport, and Pilates offers the opportunity to zero in on the precise problem areas.

Breath control

Relieving tension and learning to properly release and pursue the breath is a great way to prevent injury. Pilates is all about learning to follow the breath and to allow it to guide movement. This consciousness is something that is often missing in athletics, and it’s common for athletes to hold their breath unnaturally and therefore to be more likely to become injured when all of that tension meets the physical exertion of sport.

Proper breathing stabilizes the trunk to offer a more solid foundation for movement. It also relieves pressure that builds up and can cause muscles to become rigid.

In Pilates, breathing is intimately connected to movement, with inhales coming as motion builds, and exhales coming as the motion proceeds. It sounds simple enough, but without consisted practice it doesn’t often come easy. Regular Pilates practice helps athletes to harness the power of the air coming in and out of their lungs in order to keep potential injuries at bay.

Balanced muscle development

Pilates benefits the development of muscles all over the body that are properly balanced. In any sport, some muscle groups are naturally going to be used more often than others.

For instance in tennis, the triceps and pectorals are heavily relied upon in order to get that perfect serve. The opposing bicep and trapezius muscles are left without an equal amount of focus, causing those more developed muscles to create an imbalance and leaving the door open to over exertion and injury. Without working opposing muscle groups, athletes find themselves in a situation in which the don’t have balanced development, leaving them more prone to injury.

The proper alignment that comes with balanced muscle development can correct imperfect movement patterns, bringing movements into better and more healthy alignments that prevent sports injuries. Changing those patterns can also help to alleviate in problems after they’ve manifested and to get athletes back on track.

A fundamental philosophy of Pilates is that it works the whole body, specifically focusing on balanced muscle development. Opposing muscle groups are consciously developed in an effort to keep the body from pulling too far in one direction or another.

Body awareness

The whole system of Pilates helps practitioners to find out where their bodies are in space, how they move and what kinds of movement feel certain ways. There is an optimization of movement that comes with regular Pilates practice, a personal efficiency that fosters self-discovery of what works and what doesn’t work so well. This awareness gives athletes the chance to make adjustments when necessary, decreasing the likelihood of injury.

So often we just move our bodies without thinking. This is something that’s true even of high level athletes. Moving the body becomes more of a reflex than a conscious decision. The problem with that is that everyone, no matter what their skill level, learns habits that aren’t perfect. Getting out of those bad habits is no small thing, but by improving body awareness it is possible to make the kinds of adjustments in movement that foster easier and more effective engagement in sport activities.

We are in control of every movement that our bodies make. Learning to sense how movement affects the body, how to live in the body with the mind fully present, allows athletes to sense injuries before they become overwhelming. In this case, knowing really is half the battle.

Control

It’s not only important to be aware of the body in order to prevent injury, it’s equally important to have control over the body’s movement. Pilates gives that control to practitioners. Precision is the name of the game in Pilates, with movements being controlled down to the minutiae of their execution.

Most of the work in Pilates takes place in the “mid -range” – not engaging a muscle group to its limits but rather holding back somewhere between no exertion and fully going there. Athletes often miss this range, pushing their bodies hard but without the kind of control that’s necessary to prevent injury.

Pilates offers a safe and effective training method for athletes to learn how to control their muscles and to hold back when necessary. Preventing serious injury in sport is often about learning to hold back when a muscle or joint is slightly compromised to prevent a traumatizing event.

The bottom line on sports injuries is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Athletes who are serious about keeping themselves in the game and out of the doctor’s office are well advised to take up a regular Pilates practice in order to prevent injury. You can begin today by downloading our easy 100-day challenge! We’ll provide you with a quick, new Pilates exercise to do each day, making you stronger,  more flexible, and less prone to injury.

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Think about it – your spine is the center of your body. Its physical placement is right there in your middle, connecting you from your head all the way down to your bottom. From your first breath to your final, your spine is an integral part of you and one that is a key to maintaining good health in every stage of life.

Sensing the centrality of your spine

Take a moment to feel your spine right now, to sense how it is a part of you.

Wiggle your fingers – you can sense that connection as the signal to create motion comes from your brain and cascades down your spine, through your shoulders and all the way down the length of your arm to the tips of your fingers. Now do the same with your toes and you’ll get that same sense of the way that those signals travel from your brain, down your spine, past your hips, running all the way down your leg and through your feet until reaching your toes and wiggling them.

Roll your head around, then shift your ribcage back and forth, and finally shake your hips a bit (right there wherever you’re reading this – don’t be shy!) All of that movement comes from your spine–not just in the sense that the signals are traveling down your spine from your brain to spark the movement, but also in a more concrete sense, as you are articulating your spine intentionally and that movement sends out other movement in your body.

The spine’s role in overall health

Though the spine is a key player in the health of the body in terms of movement and sensation, its importance doesn’t stop there. That centrality in the body means that the spine is connected to every vital function. The integrity of your spine is very closely tied to the overall integrity of your health. The more effectively your spine functions, the more effectively the rest of your body will function as well.

Your spine was designed to protect and house your spinal cord, which is the partner to your brain in your central nervous system. These two work in tandem to make it all happen. All other nerves and sensations make up the peripheral nervous system, which sends and receives signals from the brain and spine. To put it simply: Without your spine, all your other nerves and muscle movement would suffer greatly – so you want to keep it healthy and flexible!

This is way more important than just comfort and ease of movement: The spine sends and receives signals from your vital organs as well. Without your spine, your stomach can’t digest your food, your lungs can’t contract and expand, your heart can’t beat. Those nerves maintain your body temperature and your blood pressure, control your sexual function, tell you when to feel hungry or tired, allow you to feel the cool breeze on your cheek and the warm sand between your toes. Nerves from your spine innervate all of you, making your body function. Everything about the way that your body functions and interacts with the world around you is controlled right there in your spine.

Keeping those bones in line

Your spine is composed of 33 bones called vertebrae, small bones that are stacked on top of each other and house the bundle of central nerves that make up the spinal cord. Those nerves from the spinal cord reach out through the spaces in the vertebrae on the way to their destinations through small holes called foramen. When the bones in your spinal column are pinched, tight, or out of alignment, then those nerves can become compromised, and it’s something that’s all too common, especially as we age.

The bones of the spine are supported and controlled by ligaments, muscles and other tissue that surround them. When we talk about strengthening your spine, we’re not talking about actually doing anything to the bones themselves – those are what they are and can’t be modified without surgery, which of course we want to avoid. Rather, when we talk about “strengthening the spine” or “aligning the spine,” what we’re really talking about is strengthening those muscles and the surrounding tissue in such a way as to pull those bones into alignment and to relieve any pressure that might be on those nerves that are reaching out of the vertebrae.

Maintaining the integrity of your spine through the right kind of fitness is an important part of keeping your body healthy. Using an exercise system like Pilates that focuses on working with the spine to keep it properly aligned and easily mobile is a key to maintaining overall health, both for you in terms of your ability to move with ease and in terms of your body’s ability to function at its best.

Spine health and aging

We hear about back pain so often that it is practically an expectation that we will have it in some form as we age, but this is by no means a discomfort that we should simply live with. There are ways to prevent and reduce back pain as we age.

Many of those common aches and pains come from a spine that’s compressing nerves because it’s not properly supported with strong core muscles. The good news is that there is something you can do about it–whether you’ve never experienced those aches and pains or whether they’re old familiar friends. Improving posture and core strength through exercise is a proven way to take the pain out of the spine and thereby to improve overall health.

As the years pass it’s easy for the stresses of life, both physical and mental, to take a toll on the spine and cause us to feel older than we are. Exercise that focuses on improving the functionality of the spine isn’t just about getting your body to move with ease in the sense of making you more limber and agile – it’s about taking the pressure off of those so important nerves and allowing them to do their job of supporting your vital bodily functions.

The good news is, you can start today! For the next 100 days, I challenge you to strengthen your spine and your core through our quick, simple daily challenges. Just download the app!

It’s just as important today as it is for your future – because after all, you’re only as old as your spine.

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That ache in the lower back – the one that comes on swiftly when picking up a heavy object, or slowly after a long day of strenuous exertion – doesn’t have to be something that people just “have to live with.” Eight out of ten people suffer from some form of issue with their lower back, and the discomfort can cause serious pain and put a serious strain on the ability to get things done.

People have this sense that the pain that’s felt from this kind of lower back injury is just a part of getting older, it’s something that adults simply have to deal with. However, that notion is patently false. Let’s explore the reasons for and ways to solve lower back pain. Life can be pain free.

Causes and solutions for lower back pain

Lower back pain is typically caused by issues with the muscles in the lower back. In order to combat those problems, getting the right kind of treatment is vital.

You’ll notice that most of these causes are simple. Lower back pain is a widespread issue because it’s most often caused by the common habits that can easily be changed.

1. Sleeping on the stomach

It’s cuddly. It’s comfy. It’s lovely. Sleeping on the stomach is comfortable for many of us, but it can cause some serious discomfort later on.

Cause:

Sleeping with the back to the ceiling means that the spine isn’t in a good position of alignment. That kind of misalignment causes all kinds of trouble for the lower back by putting strain on the muscles and ligaments in the back.

Solution:

If you really can’t sleep any other way, don’t worry, there’s a solution. Slip a narrow pillow underneath your hips to bring them up and to create the natural curve in your spine. This simple addition can prove to be an incredibly powerful one.

2. Smoking

Though smoking is becoming less and less common, there are still a great many people who light up. What’s truly amazing is that smoking has effects on a wide variety of parts of the body – not just on the lungs.

Cause:

Chemicals in cigarettes affect just about every part of a smoker’s body. In the lower back, those chemicals restrict blood flow to the vertebrae, causing lower back pain. That lack of blood can actually create an increase in deterioration of the structures in the lower back that do come with age, and smoking can even leech calcium from the body, bringing on back pain caused by osteoporosis.

Solution:

Quit smoking. Or vaping. The nicotine found in vaping has the same effect on the body as does traditional smoking. Other kinds of smoking can cause issues as well – so just quit!

3. Posture

This is perhaps the most common reason for lower back pain to flare up – poor posture. Poor posture is rampant today thanks to the amount of time that people spend in front of screens, either for work or for pleasure. If you are hunching over a desk, you might not feel discomfort in the moment, but sitting in this position for hours on end can lead to back problems that stick around and just won’t go away.

Cause:

Just as with the sleeping on the belly problem, poor posture causes a misalignment in the spine that puts pressure on the structures in the lower back. Over time, that pressure eats away at the ability of the back to stay in alignment and causes a whole host of long term issues.

Solution:

There are actually several great solutions for improving posture, but they boil down to just two – fixing the environment and fixing the body. To fix the environment, get a better chair or even look into a standing desk. It might seem like a low priority, but taking the time to solve the problem will mean a lower likelihood of pain. To fix the body, take stretch breaks and work on an exercise system that will pull the body back into alignment. Pilates helps to improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the lower back and increasing bodily awareness in order to bring the body back in line.

4. Core weakness

Core work isn’t just about having great abs. The muscles that wrap around the midsection of the body are important when it comes to having a pain free lower back.

Cause:

A weak core is a direct cause of lower back pain, as without balance and strength that comes from the core muscles, the spine is left to do all of the work. The spine needs the support of strong muscles in the abdomen and in the back in order to pull it into alignment and to relieve pressure on the vertebrae and spine.

Solution:

Work out the core to create more support for the spine. Pilates focuses on core development that’s done with balance, pulling the spine into better alignment and creating more effective support for the spinal column. Developing the core muscles can even help to relieve strain on the lower back that’s been caused by an injury to the spine.

Keep in mind that this is just a short list of possible causes of lower back pain. The complexity of the muscles, nerves and organs in the back means that there is a wide variety of things that could potentially cause lower back pain. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the pain in order to ensure that it is musculoskeletal in nature and that it’s not indicative of a kidney or other internal issue.

Pilates can be a great solution for strengthening muscles and alleviating lower back pain. Try practicing Pilates briefly every day for our 100 Day Challenge and see if these exercises can lessen or completely get rid of the ache, by working the muscles to allow for a life that isn’t a pain in the back.

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Back pain doesn’t take prisoners, it goes right for the kill. While many people live with chronic lower back pain, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy road or that it’s something that they have to suffer through. There are myriad ways to fight back again this debilitating problem and Pilates is offers a wonderfully simple solution that gets to the root of the problem.

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