6 ways to love your back

We know that for many, Pilates is a 'go to' class for back health.

Pilates is brilliant for backs. We move it, strengthen the muscles around it, release the muscles around it and increase circulation and joint mobility ... the list goes on.

Although, as I've mentioned in previous posts, Pilates is not a cure all for bad backs. Acute back issues (and most chronic back issues) require a visit to the GP and/or a physiotherapist before Pilates is advised by your medical professional.

One class a week is a really good start but we wanted to share six top tips on how to love your back, beyond the Pilates class:

1. MOVE. This is the absolute must do. Not moving is just about the worst thing you could do for your body, especially your back. Your body is built to move! And what's the first thing we do when we're in pain? Stay still. This is right at first and important, it's a defence mechanism but slowly you need to get movement back. Long term you need to find ways to incorporate movement into your day. That could be a class at work, a walk or a swim one evening a week. Make it regular and make it part of your lifestyle. It's cheaper and more controllable than an emergency visit to the physio.

2. MOVE YOUR SPINE. Yes more movement. But specifically your spine. Think like an animal. Cats, dogs, snakes, the way they move or stretch when they wake. Think about the way your spine can move. Side to side, forwards and back and twisting. Stand up from your desk and do these three moves. It takes 10 seconds.

3. FIND WAYS TO STRETCH YOUR HAMSTRINGS. Most of us who sit down a lot have tight hamstrings. Find a stretch that works for you. It could be a dynamic kick or a seated stretch. Try sitting against the wall or a chair at home seated on a cushion just to encourage your hamstrings to lengthen.

4. INVEST IN YOUR BED. We spend around a third of our lives in our beds. It's worth getting a good one. And whilst you're at it, check your pillow arrangement too.

5. SENSIBLE SHOES. Heels are rotten on your back, flats aren't that great either. If you walk a lot, you need good shoes, which support the arches of your feet. Get your gait checked at a running store or a walking shop. If you wear heels a lot your body will compensate, either by sticking your bottom out and head forwards (tight lower back, tight hamstrings, stiff neck), or by Bambi walking (bent knees, hips forwards).

6. STAND UP. Whenever you can stand up. Think about your Pilates alignment: your ears over your shoulders, your ribs sitting above your hips, soft knees, heavy tailbone, ribs drawing down to your hips. All these little things can make such a difference.

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