Monday Medical: Low back care and Pilates


Most of us will experience some form of low back pain during our lives. It is the most common cause of job-related disability in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Many years ago, it was thought that the best way to treat all low back pain was rest and inactivity. However, now we know that a majority of patients suffering from low back pain recover better with a short amount of rest accompanied with stretching, gentle movement, ice and possibly anti-inflammatory medicines.

"Recent years have seen dramatic changes in the way we manage back and neck pain from a physical therapy standpoint," explains orthopaedic surgeon Henry Fabian, MD, director of the Steamboat Springs Spine Clinic.

"The emphasis now is on core stabilization and the application of Pilates-type techniques for the care of both acute and chronic back pain, as well as for postoperative spine surgery care."

Pilates is a system of movement and exercise created and developed in the early 1900s by athlete and physical therapy pioneer Joseph H. Pilates. Pilates focuses on strengthening the "core" muscles of the body's torso - the abdominal, gluteal and lower back muscles.

Pilates can be done in a group class, with participants using mats on the floor. Private sessions may utilize specialized equipment. In mat classes, students sit or lie down and use gravity to help use core muscles for strength and stabilization.

"Pilates is a type of exercise that takes you back to the foundations of movement. It is about moving from your deepest muscles and working outward," explains Kristin Stevenson, certified Pilates instructor with the Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness Center.

"When we understand where the muscles we want to work are and, more importantly, how to isolate them, you create efficient movement that incorporates length and strength in unison."

Stevenson says the body's pelvic floor is the base of all these movements.

"The initiation of these muscles before a movement takes place stabilizes the pelvis and supports the organs so we can move without pain or rigidity," she says. "Understanding how your body moves puts you back in control and on the road to living pain free."

Fabian and Stevenson will be part of a speaker panel providing a free community education program this week. Fabian will review basic spine anatomy and conservative care, highlighting some new surgical technologies available to manage neck and back pain.

Stevenson will join Nicole Rabanal, PT, from Kinetic Energy and Wendy Puckett, certified Pilates instructor with Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness Studio, to present a live demonstration of Pilates and other core stabilization techniques.

Attendees will see live video ultrasound evaluation of key muscles involved in core stabilization. Participants will be taught exercises and postural alignment in an interactive format, learning how to apply them in daily activities.

The "Taking Care of Me" session begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Yampa Valley Medical Center's Conference Room 1.


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