We’ve covered the basics of how yoga and pilates can be individually beneficial for the body, in particular for back pain. But there is definitely one that we would recommend over the other due to the benefits it provides and how it can be a supportive side-activity for our patients as they rehabilitate their back after treatment with us. Our usual process of treatment involves identifying the problem initially, and establishing what kind of activities someone is doing on a daily basis that means their body is unable to heal the injury – this could be regular bad posture, bad lifting technique etc.
Once we’ve established the cause and started treatment, we’d follow this with a plan of rehabilitation that’s done alongside maintenance sessions of treatment in order to strengthen the back and core muscles to support a healthier spine. Many of our patients are advised that yoga and pilates can be beneficial for their back, but which is better for your spine and what should you be avoiding?
Generally speaking, if you’ve watched any of our videos you’ll understand that we do tend to favour pilates rather than yoga, for the simple reason that it’s done in a much more controlled environment – especially when it’s reformer pilates.
Finding The Root Cause Of Back Pain
A lot of patients that come into the clinic with an element of chronic back pain, have an inbuilt weakness. This weakness can come about in various ways – maybe some of them have turned to supports or straps to support their back, but in reality these can also destroy any core competence that they used to have, or maybe there are ladies who have had a C-section in the past and lost the ability, or never went through the rehabilitation to regain the strength of their core. This is something that’s quite commonly overlooked, in quite a worrying way. Once we’ve established an initial root cause of the patient’s back pain, we will go through treatment that aims to get them out of the ‘inflammatory phase’ and get them feeling much better, the patient is usually able to start doing daily activities properly again. At this point they may have been introduced to some basic rehabilitation by the practitioner, but sending them for pilates at this stage will really help them in a safe way, particularly the case with reformer pilates, as it will help them to strengthen their core, a vital part of long-term rehabilitation.
Why Yoga Is Less Beneficial For Back Pain
Yoga on the other hand, again generally speaking at an amateur level, the consensus we receive from patients is that usually they will strive to achieve various yoga positions that can be unhealthy for a spine that is already compromised. These can include moves that involve backbends, the wheel, or bridge, and cobra. The end goal is often to be as flexible as possible, taking a joint to the complete end of its range.
If you’re very flexible it does go some way to help decrease your likelihood of injury, but now you have a lot of lax, wobbly ligaments but no strength or integrity in your joints. Quite often with yoga, and this can be almost the same for any sport or activity, many people will tend to focus entirely on one activity rather than integrating cross-training. By combining your usual activity with any other form of exercise, you’re really helping to create some variety in the muscles that are being worked in your body. If you’re going all in for flexibility with yoga, it’s worthwhile combining this with gym-based work to also get some strengthening in your body too.
Although yoga can serve its place in your gym routine, and can be invaluable when combined with other sports, using it as your main form of exercise and not combining it with anything else may be counter intuitive to dealing with back pain. Being in a class with 10, 20 or 30 people may be economically affordable, in the long-run it doesn’t provide exercises that are specific to your spine. For example, a hypolordotic posture is quite common in females, where the curve in the lower back is much deeper than it should ideally be. If they’re then regularly practicing yoga where they’re perhaps practicing further backward bending, bridging or the cobra pose, this is not going to be helpful for their spine in the slightest. It’s common for people to not work on the weaknesses in their spine, but in complete fairness, if you’ve never had a spinal analysis using X-rays where the curves can be physically measured, how are you to know?
Why You Should Combine Yoga & Pilates
So what should the correct approach be? Well if you enjoy practicing yoga, intersperse this with pilates or gym-based weight training to build a little bit of strength to go alongside the flexibility you’re working on. Even better, if you have a yoga instructor that comes highly recommended near you, consider taking one-on-one classes so that you can do exercises much more specifically for you, and make sure that you’re doing the exercises correctly. If you suffer from the odd pain in your back or neck, have a spine assessment done by your local osteopath or chiropractor to learn a little bit more about exercises that are more tailored to your spine. If you’re based in London, you can book an appointment with us to learn about your individual spine, what exactly you need to do and advise you more specifically.
To book your initial assessment with us, call us on 0203 947 3222 or email us at email@example.com. The first session with us includes your examination, any X-rays should you need them, a treatment that is done on the first session, as well as your results and any radiology reports.