Our spine or vertebral column is made of twenty-four vertebrae. When we are standing, the entire weight of our body, head and arms is transferred through these vertebrae. Spinal intervertebral discs that are between each vertebrae cushioned this shock when we move. The discs are composed of a tough outer layer, the annulus fibrosus and a liquid centre called the nucleus pulposus. When weight is placed on a disc, the annulus fibrosus supports the nucleus pulposus in compressing and distributing the pressure.
A slipped disc or herniated disc happens when the nucleus pulposus bulges out through a weakness in the outer part of the disc. It may be pressing on nearby nerves and cause severe pain or inflammation. One tends to develop a slipped disc between 30 and 50 years old; and twice as many men as women are affected. There are no permanent treatments to treat slipped disc and hence it is very important to ensure we cultivate good habits to prevent slipped disc from happening. Doing Pilates exercises is one of the easiest ways to restore the natural curves of the spine while strengthening your muscles at the same time.
H2:Pilates Exercises Promote Good Posture
How you sit, stand and move have a big impact on your spine. Incorporating good postural habits are crucial in maintaining a healthy spine. Our spine has a natural “S” shape and this “S” shape has to be maintained in every movement to ensure proper posture. Pilates exercises focus a lot on neutral position or “S” shaped-spine in every movement, hence retuning our body to get used to the neutral position that is good for our body.
Standing – Stand upright with head balanced on top of shoulders. Both legs should be straight with even weight on both feet. When doing standing Pilates exercises, we learn to notice details as such your rib cage should be balanced on top of your hip bones when standing to prevent over-arching of your lumbar spine.
Sitting – Your pelvis should be vertical and support in the small of your back to promote the natural lumbar curve. Head forward posture should be avoided to prevent over extension of neck. Your knees and hips should be level and your feet should be flat on the floor (use a footstool if necessary).
Lifting & Moving – Avoid making sudden aggressive movements or over-twisting your body in unnatural positions. Pilates exercises that promote rotation of rib cage, articulation of spine and lateral flexion will help to promote flexibility and strength. Distribute your weight evenly on both sides of the body especially on both feet.
Exercising regularly can slow down the deterioration of your interverteral discs. It can also keep your supporting back muscles and postural muscles strong. Integrating high-impact activities, weight lifting exercises with core strengthening exercises such as Pilates exercises is useful in preventing over-straining your spine. However, it is important that you carry out Pilates exercises under guidance of qualified instructor.
Pilates Exercises such as Hip Rolls are useful in promoting articulation of your spine, strengthening abdominals to support spine especially lumbar spine, glutes and hamstrings.
Lying on back, pelvis and spine neutral. Knees bent, feet hip-distance apart on mat. Arms by sides, palms down. Inhale to prepare.
Step 1: Exhale
Initiate from tailbone and slowly peel spine off mat until hips are lifted and weight is resting between shoulder blades, not neck. Do not arch lower back by maintaining good abdominals connection with rib cage.
Step 2: Inhale
Keep abs engaged and expand back of rib cage, keeping head and shoulders relaxed. Press evenly into both feet to engage glutes & hamstrings. Relax shoulders.
Step 3: Exhale
Soften chest, ribs, middle back and lower back as you return spine to starting position vertebrate by vertebrate.
Repeat 3 – 5 times.
Cultivating good posture and incorporating core strengthening exercises such as Pilates exercises will help you to prevent slipped disc and other back pains.