Pilates – A Self-management Guide to Lower Back Pain

Low back pain (LBP) is reported to be one of the most common musculoskeletal health issues globally, with estimates from the World Health Organisation suggesting that almost everyone will experience a period of LBP at some point during their lifetime (1).

In 85% of cases, LBP experienced by the patient cannot be clinically diagnosed or associated to a specific pathology or nerve condition (1). And so, without establishing a clear diagnosis these cases are referred to as non-specific lower back pain (2). Periods of LBP can be short lived, experienced by all age groups, and can be influenced lifestyle factors, such as being increasingly more sedentary at home and at work, increasing rates of obesity and also smoking (2).

1. Your back is stronger than you think – LBP is very common and rarely anything to be worried about, 98% of LBP is due to a simple sprain or strain and will recover on its own fairly quickly.

2. Avoid bedrest, stay in work and gradually resume normal activities – try and remain as active as possible, research shows that long periods of rest can actually cause an increase in levels of pain, discomfort and disability.

3. Don’t be afraid of lift or bending – it’s not how we lift or bend, but the weight or load of what we are trying to lift that causes the problem. Don’t avoid doing it, just get your body used to lift different weights comfortably without over exerting.

7. Good quality sleep – reduces stress and helps overall wellbeing, so you are less susceptible to pain in the first instance and are able to cope with it better when it does occur.

8. Back pain can happen without any damage or injury – it isn’t always just physical factors that cause pain, but it can be due to other things such as psychological, social, health and lifestyle factors. Try and monitor what aggravates your level of pain and what eases it.

10. If in doubt seek advice – if symptoms persist longer than 6-8 weeks then don’t worry, but it is always best to seek professional advice. If you have any of the following symptoms, then it is important to call your GP for advice:


  • Difficulty passing urine or having the sensation to pass water that is not there
  • Numbness/tingling in your genitals or buttocks area
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control2
  • Impaired sexual function, such as loss of sensation during intercourse
  • Loss of power in your legs
MSK Sports Injury Clinic
Laura Jones
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