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Pilates Exercises For The Back, San Ramon

Pilates Exercises For The Back, San Ramon

Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on strengthening the core muscles, improving balance and coordination, and increasing flexibility. It is also an effective way to relieve back pain and improve posture. 

Back pain is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor posture, lack of exercise, and injury. Pilates can help alleviate back pain by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and improving posture. 

Ironhorse Physical Therapy & Pilates offers Pilates as part of our clinical services. Our physical therapists are experienced and trained in the latest Pilates techniques for injuries and rehabilitation. Keep learning to read more about the benefits of Pilates and the common Pilates exercises for lower back pain.

The Benefits Of Pilates For Back Pain

Whether it's due to poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, or an injury, back pain can be debilitating and affect quality of life. Pilates is a low-impact exercise that can be beneficial for a range of different types of back pain, including lower back pain. When prescribed appropriately, it can help patients achieve a stronger healthier back. 

Some of the benefits of Pilates include: 

  • Improved core strength: Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, which include the abdominals, back muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. By improving the strength and stability of these muscles, Pilates can help improve posture, reduce strain on the back, and alleviate back pain. A strong core also helps to support the spine, reducing the risk of injury and improving overall spinal health.
  • Better posture: Poor posture is a common cause of back pain. Slouching or hunching over can put undue strain on the back muscles and ligaments, leading to pain and discomfort. Pilates exercises are designed to improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and encouraging proper alignment. Pilates exercises also teach patients how to engage the core muscles and maintain good posture throughout the day, reducing the risk of back pain.
  • Increased flexibility: Pilates exercises are designed to improve flexibility and mobility in the spine, hips, and shoulders. By improving range of motion, Pilates can help reduce stiffness and tension in the back muscles. Pilates exercises also help to stretch and lengthen the muscles, reducing muscle imbalances that can lead to back pain.
  • Low-impact exercise: Pilates is a low-impact exercise that can be performed by people of all ages and fitness levels. Unlike high-impact exercises like running and jumping, Pilates is gentle on the joints and doesn't put undue strain on the back. Addtionaly, Pilates exercises can be modified to suit individual needs, making it a safe and effective exercise for people with back pain.

In order to experience these benefits, it’s important to consult only a trained and qualified physical therapist. A physical therapist will complete a consultation, including taking a history and using special tests, to determine the diagnosis. In this way, they can prescribe the best Pilates exercises, alongside any other appropriate treatments. This will help maximise the benefits of the treatment whilst minimising any side effects, especially for those who have a history of back problems or other health conditions.

Pilates Exercises For Back Pain

The best Pilates exercises for back strengthening depend on the type of back pain, the underlying cause, and the goals of treatment. Some people may be prescribed Pilates exercises for pain management, whilst others may use Pilates as cross-training to help return to sport after back pain. 

Here are some of the common Pilates exercises that a physical therapist may prescribe for back pain:

Pelvic Tilts

The pelvic tilt is a simple exercise that can help relieve lower back pain. It is a Pilates core exercise commonly used for back pain as it helps relax and activate the muscles of the lower back and lower abdomen in a controlled way. 

To complete this exercise, the patient lies on their back with their knees bent and feet flat on the ground. They then place their hands on their lower abdomen and inhale. Upon exhaling, they gently tilt their pelvis towards their navel, flattening their lower back against the floor. They then reverse the direction to create a gentle arch in the lower back.

This exercise can be progressed by the physical therapist, depending on the targeted area and ability of the patient. For example, the Pilates exercise can be completed on a fitness ball to help address lower back issues, as this can help strengthen the stabilising muscles of the lower back and abdominals. In this way, it can help address the contributing factors to lower back pain. 


Bridge is a challenging exercise that strengthens the muscles around the lower back. Technique is important for optimal efficacy and to avoid worsening the symptoms. The physical therapist will guide the movement to ensure the right muscle activation. 

To complete this exercise, the patient lies on their back with their knees bent to 90 degrees. With control, they gently tilt their pelvis and raise their hips towards the roof. The neck and shoulders should remain relaxed throughout the exercise. After a short hold, the patient slowly lowers their hips back towards the floor. 

To progress this exercise, the physical therapist may incorporate a Pilates ring to target the muscles that support the lower back, including hip adductors or abductors. Depending on the placement of the ring – either inside or outside of the legs – these muscles can be strengthened to help better support the lower back.

Cat-Cow Stretch

The cat-cow stretch is a great way to warm up the spine and relieve tension in the back. This exercise is a common Pilates back exercise for beginners. That is because it is simple to perform and is completed in a supportive position. In this way, it is a low-impact exercise that can help teach patients unfamiliar with Pilates some of the basic concepts, such as breathing control and core activation.

To complete the exercise, the patient starts on their hands and knees with their wrists directly under their shoulders. The knees should line up directly under the hips. They inhale and exhale, rounding their spine towards the ceiling, tucking their chin into the chest. This is the cat position. The patient then reverses the movement, inhaling and exhaling to arch their back, lifting their tailbone towards the ceiling and relaxing their belly towards the floor. This is the cow position. 

Single Leg Lifts

The single leg lift may be prescribed to improve strength and stability in the hips and lower back. The patient lies on their back with their legs at 90 degrees and arms at their sides. They lift their right leg to a table top position. Upon exhaling, they return the leg to the starting position. The movement is repeated on the other side.

The exercise can be progressed by the physical therapist. For example, the physical therapist may direct the patient to incorporate the arms or use both legs at the same time. 


Plank is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles in the sides of the back and the core. It is an advanced exercise that is usually only prescribed by physical therapists towards the end of a rehabilitation program. 

To complete the exercise, the patient starts in a plank position, with their forearms on the floor and their body in a straight line from head to heels. The patient makes sure to keep their weight even across all contact points. 

The physical therapist may progress the exercise by increasing the duration of the hold, or can regress the exercise by prescribing a kneeling plank instead of full plank.

Alternative Exercises Pilates

Pilates can be completed on a mat, or with equipment such as a reformer. The reformer is a sliding carriage that is connected to springs and pulleys, allowing the user to adjust the resistance of the machine. The reformer can be used for exercises that target a specific issue, such as the lower back pain, or to work the entire body, with a particular focus on core strength, balance, and flexibility. As a result, reformer Pilates is popular among people who want a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints while providing a challenging and effective workout. 

Pilates At Ironhorse Physical Therapy & Pilates, San Ramon 

Incorporating Pilates exercises into a rehabilitation treatment routine can help alleviate back pain, improve posture, and increase flexibility. At Ironhorse Physical Therapy & Pilates, our physical therapists help reduce the risk of injury and improve overall health and well-being of patients using Pilates techniques. 

Book a consultation with our trained and experienced physical therapists in San Ramon. They can assess the root cause of the program, and prescribe the most suitable treatment to alleviate back issues and pain. Speak to our team to book an appointment!