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Pilates and Core-stability
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Pilates is a system of exercise named after its founder Joseph Pilates, who developed the exercises in the early part of the last century, and taught in New York from 1926-1966, mainly to dancers and elite athletes. Pilates exercises teach awareness of the breath and alignment of the spine, and to strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.
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Joseph Pilates was the original forerunner of everything we understand today by the term ‘core-stability’. Pilates developed this approach to training to a very advanced level. It was not until the 1980’s that exercise and sports science finally caught up with his original pioneering work, that was continued mainly by dancers and elite athletes.
Show video: Engaging core and lifting arms
Although very helpful for athletes to increase their performance, by developing core-stability through Pilates methods, even basic beginners core-stability and Pilates exercises are very useful in rehabilitation from injury, especially recovery from lumbar disc herniation and chronic low back pain.
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Caution should be advised here — for a disc injury during its acute stage — where other ‘exercises’ e.g. the Astronaut position (lying on your back with your feet on a chair) may be more appropriate. Physical therapy is also helpful. Once the acute stage has passed, and the pain (and any numbness, pins and needles, etc) has begun to diminish and settle down, it is only then that ‘gentle’ core-stability and strengthening exercises should be begun (e.g. raising the arm with core engaged). The reason is that core exercises can increase the pressure on the disc — if it is still very acute.
Show video: Engaging core moving opposite arm and leg
Pilates and core-exercises are an essential component to recovery, and to help prevent recurrence of injury. In terms of their benefit, the difference between 0 and 1, is greater than between 1 and 10, i.e. we do not have to be athletes, only attain a basic level of core-stability to avoid further episodes of low back pain and ongoing injury.
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The other area to focus on is some stretching for the upper back. If the thoracic spine is rigid and has lost it’s natural mobility through hardening of the joints and muscle tightening — then abdominal muscle core-strength alone will rarely give optimum results. Please also see the Yoga and stretching section where other exercises are given.