Got Knee, Back or Neck Pain? Here's How Pilates Can Help

woman doing Develope Kicks on a mat in a Pilates studio
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Pilates For Knee, Back or Neck 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 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.

Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM
woman doing T-pulls on a mat in a Pilates studio
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2. T-Pull

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 abs to support the lower back while those back muscles get stronger. Bonus: You work the postural muscles of your upper back as well.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs together and arms opened out in a T position.
  2. Slowly reach your arms down toward your hips as you lift your head and chest off the floor.
  3. Hold, then reach back open wide as you lower your chest back down.
  4. As you reach out and away from your core, keep your abs scooped in and up along your spine.
  5. Only lift a few inches off the mat and perform for 8 reps.
Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM
woman doing Front Picque Taps on a mat in a Pilates studio
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3. 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.

  1. Lie on your side, bend your knees and prop yourself up on your elbow.
  2. Extend your top leg straight out in front of your hip.
  3. Hover that top leg parallel to the floor.
  4. Pulse up and down about three to five inches 30 times, and then switch to the opposite side.
  5. 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.

Read more: A Pilates Instructor's Secrets to Long, Lean Legs

Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM
woman doing Develope Kicks on a mat in a Pilates studio
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4. Develope Kicks

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 or walking. 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.

  1. Lie on your side with your head resting in your hand and your legs extended out straight.
  2. Bend your top leg in and up toward your side and draw your toes toward your bottom leg.
  3. Unfold your top leg up and extend it toward the ceiling.
  4. Reverse the motion until your leg is back down in the starting position.
  5. Repeat 30 times on each side.
Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM
woman doing Knees Off Hold on a mat in a Pilates studio
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5. 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 support the meniscus, ACL and PCL of the knee.

  1. Come onto your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.
  2. Round your back up toward the ceiling.
  3. Keeping your knees over your hips, lift your knees a few inches off the mat. Think about lifting from the core versus pressing down into the wrists.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and lower back down. Repeat one more set.

Read more: Bad Knees? Try These 14 Knee-Strengthening Exercises

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woman doing Thoracic Extension on a mat in a Pilates studio
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6. Thoracic Extension

This exercise is about more than just stretching out of the neck: It tackles the bigger issue of lengthening the muscles while strengthening them and training them not to hold tension.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart while holding a resistance band at shoulder-distance in front of your chest.
  2. Bend your knees and reach the band up toward the ceiling, gently pulling the band outward.
  3. Open your chest as you look toward the ceiling, and then reach the band back behind your head.
  4. As you look toward the ceiling, keep your shoulders away from your ears and don't let your neck and head hang too far back.
  5. Lift the band back toward the ceiling while keeping your knees bent. Straighten your legs and reach the band in front of your chest.
  6. Do 6 reps.
Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM
woman doing Flipping Pulses on a mat in a Pilates studio
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7. Flipping Pulses

Think about actively pressing out with the entire flat palm and moving from the entire arm, not just the fingers. That way, this lengthening exercise will safely strengthen every part of the wrist without putting undue pressure or tension on wrists.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold a band between the thumb and index finger out in front of your chest.
  2. Wrap the band (or towel) around your hands once.
  3. Gently press out into the band and flip your hands to face down toward the floor.
  4. Still gently pressing out, flip your hands back up to face the ceiling.
  5. Actively draw shoulders down your back throughout the exercise to keep the work in the lats and traps.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

Read more: 13 Exercises to Help You Recover From an Injury

Image Credit: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM

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