There are two main areas where people suffer most: upper back and lower back. Poor posture, working at a desk for long periods, ongoing stress, or repetitive strain can affect the upper back, shoulders, and neck.
Pilates Expert Korin Nolan believes the solution lies simply in more movement, but more specifically, the right kind of quality movement to avoid added injury.
1. Spine Curl
This really helps to relieve back pain, lengthen out and realign the spine. Lay on your back with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Breathe in to prepare and on the exhale, tuck the tailbone under and lengthen out your lower back, then using your glutes peel the spine off the mat one vertebrae at a time, until you reach a bridge position, resting your weight across the shoulders and into your feet. Inhale and then roll down in reverse as you exhale back to a neutral position.
This is particularly good if you have rounded shoulders and upper back due to bad posture and repetitive strain. It might be quite difficult to perform if so, as you will no doubt be very tight across the pectorals (chest). But it’s essential to get you to ‘open out’ and build some strength in your upper back to support your shoulder girdle. Lay on your front with your elbows bent / hands in line with your head. Open your feet wide and press your pubic bone to the mat. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale lift the head and pushing the hands start to lift the chest off the mat, coming as high up as you feel is right for you. Keep pulling your tummy in and drawing your shoulders down from your ears.
3. Hamstring Stretch
Lower back pain often stems from tightness and weakness in other areas, namely the hamstrings. Improved flexibility here will help to relieve the lower back by reducing the restriction caused by inflexible hamstrings. Lay on your back with both knees bent, grab a resistance band or a scarf/towel and wrap around the ball of one foot, holding either end. Extend the leg to the ceiling to stretch the hamstrings and hold. Try to relax and breathe well.
4. Cat Stretch
A great mobility exercise for the whole spine. This exercise is a must for everyone, and I love to do this at the end of class to help reset and realign. On your hands and knees, face down with your arms stretched and hips raised. Find a neutral spine. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, tuck your tailbone under and let your head drop down towards the mat, aiming to open out and lengthen out your lower back. Take a big inhale there and then on the exhale reverse the stretch completely, taking your tailbone to the ceiling and your chin as well, drawing down the shoulders.