Pilates for Back Pain: Is it Safe? Is it Effective?

Pilates has become very popular in the United States. Can it be helpful for you? What about your back? In this article we’ll talk about pilates and the potential benefits of pilates for back pain.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a type of physical fitness in which the individual performs controlled movements to strengthen their core. Pilates is designed to improve flexibility, increase the individual’s control over body movements and strengthen core muscles. It was originally developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates who referred to it as “contrology”.

Pilates for Back Pain - What is Pilates? Can pilates hurt your back? Is pilates good for a sore back?

There are different versions of pilates practiced today. Each version varies slightly and can follow a different set of principles including:

  • Breathing
  • Concentration
  • Control
  • Centering
  • Flow
  • Postural alignment
  • Precision
  • Relaxation
  • Stamina

Pilates Benefits

Pilates is all about being in control of your body’s movements. The motions and exercises are designed to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, align the body and help the individual be more intune with their body.

Some of the benefits often associated with pilates are:

  • Better body control – some advocate pilates for seniors to help them with proper posture and body control, thereby reducing their risk of falling
  • Reduced pain – often attributed to muscle strengthening
  • Stress reduction – similar to that experienced after meditation
  • Improved sports performance and a reduced risk of injury – pilates doesn’t target just one muscle area as with some other exercise programs but improves strength and control over all areas of the body

Pilates for Back Pain

Is Pilates Good for a Sore Back?

Numerous studies have been performed in an attempt to determine if pilates is effective in reducing back pain, specifically, lower back pain (LBP). In general, research shows that practicing pilates is better for back pain than no treatment at all. However, there is little evidence to support that pilates is more effective than other exercise regimens.

If several different exercise regimens can provide back pain relief, which is the one you should choose? Ultimately, the best program for your back is one that you feel provides relief and improves your quality of life. If pilates provides those benefits and is one that fits into your lifestyle then it’s excellent choice.

Can Pilates Hurt your Back?

Pilates exercises require strong core muscles. For beginners whose core muscles aren’t as strong, the exercises may be difficult. This, combined with improper technique, can result in injury. However, a trained pilates instructor can guide a beginner and reduce this risk of injury.


There is no concrete evidence suggesting pilates is a cure-all for your back pain. However, there is evidence that adding an exercise regimen, like pilates, to your life can help reduce back pain. While there are risks associated for beginners trying pilates on their own, pilates is usually safe under the guidance of a trained pilates instructor. As a result, it can be a great choice for people with back pain.

As with all exercise, it’s always best to speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits before beginning a new program.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilates
  2. https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/benefits-of-pilates.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26133923
  4. http://www.marcacohenspinecenter.com/how-pilates-can-help-and-hurt-your-back/
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery