Pain in general isn’t fun but when you have inflammation flare-ups it can seem even worse. Try pilates to focus on all the little, intricate muscles as well as the larger ones, that can help support joints and alleiviate pain.
Pain can make a sunny day seem like a dark and stormy one. But Pilates can help alleviate joint pain by targeting the smaller synergist muscles as well as the larger primary movers to support joints and the body as a whole. The focused approach of Pilates has made it a go-to for physical therapists and people looking to feel better on a daily basis. The following moves can be practiced every day to improve your overall health and round out your exercise routine. You’ll need a resistance band for two of the exercises, but if you don’t have one you can use a towel or go without.
Strengthening the core — and specifically the lower abdominals — helps to support the hips, pelvis and lumbar spine, which in turn can help ease lower-back pain. If the core is strong, the pelvis more easily falls into its natural alignment and the discs of the lumbar spine (aka lower back) will lift and line up more naturally.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees into your chest. Curl your head and chest up and stack your hands palm-over-palm behind your head. Extend your legs toward the ceiling. Lower your legs to a 45-degree angle. Lift your legs back up. Imagine a zipper under your navel, and then zip that zipper to lift legs back up. This will help those deep lower abdominals engage and lift the legs versus your hips or back. Do 10 reps.
This move strengthens the muscles of the back while allowing the body to stay in a fairly balanced and safe position. It also trains the lower abdominals to support the lower back while those back muscles get stronger. The bonus is you target your upper back (postural muscles of the lats and traps) as well.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach with your legs together and arms opened out in a T position. Slowly reach your arms down toward your hips as you lift your head and chest off the floor. Hold, and then reach back open wide as you lower your chest back down. As you reach out and away from core, keep your abdominals scooped in and up along your spine. Only lift a few inches off the mat. Do eight reps.
Front Picque Taps
This move strengthens the gluteus medius, which helps to support the hips, pelvis and lower back and plays a crucial role in keeping the hips strong and free of pain. Targeting this area will help the hip flexor in the front to not try to grip and take over the show when you are moving, which also helps with knee and back pain.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your side, bend your knees and prop yourself up on your elbow. Extend your top leg straight out in front of your hip. Hover that top leg parallel to the floor. Pulse up and down about three to five inches 30 times, and then switch to the opposite side. Imagine a wall against your back that won’t allow your hips to move. All the work here is happening in the side of the glute.
This simple exercise is a truly fantastic way to focus on and target the outer hip safely while stretching it as well, which is great for an area that commonly holds tension and can get compression from sitting in cars, at desks, walking, etc.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your side with your head resting in your hand and your legs extended out straight. Bend your top leg in and up toward your side and draw your toes toward your bottom leg. Unfold your top leg up and extend it toward the ceiling. Reverse the motion until your leg is back down in the starting position. Repeat 30 times on each side. Make this movement fluid. And only make the range of motion as big as your body can go without the hips moving back and forth.
Knees Off Hold
This at-home exercise replicates one of the most recommended physical therapy exercises to strengthen the knees. The lifting action activates and strengthens the quad connection without adding any pressure. This will help strengthen and support the meniscus, ACL and PCL of the knee.
HOW TO DO IT: Come onto your hands and knees (hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips). Round your back up toward ceiling. Keeping your knees over your hips, lift your knees a few inches off the mat. Hold for 30 seconds and lower back down. Repeat one more set. Think about lifting from the core versus pressing down into the wrists.
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