Monday Medical: Pilates can help give pain relief |

Monday Medical: Pilates can help give pain relief

Lisa A. Bankard/For the Steamboat Today

— Most of us will experience some form of lower back pain during our lives.

When such pain strikes, it may come as a sharp pain from a sudden injury, as a passing twinge or as a constant ache. In any of these scenarios, back pain can limit your life.

The good news is that you can diminish back pain with a strong self-care program.

"Recent years have seen dramatic changes in the way we manage back and neck pain from a physical therapy standpoint," said orthopedic spine surgeon Henry F. Fabian Jr., M.D., 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," he said.

Pilates is a total body-conditioning system that integrates the mind and body to improve muscle control, strength and flexibility. Pilates focuses on developing the strength of the torso — the body's core — through appropriate use of the muscles in the spine, which act as stabilizers. This provides strength and support for the spine.

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"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," explained Wendy Puckett, owner and 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," she said.

Luke Brosterhous, head golf professional and director of instruction at Haymaker Golf Course, knows firsthand the importance of incorporating Pilates and yoga into a daily routine.

For a year and a half, Brosterhous had the opportunity to be a full-time, touring golf professional, competing while traveling across the country.

"The action of a golf swing is really quite violent, and I found that playing every day quickly exposed my back weakness, which was posture-related," he said. "Implementing Pilates and yoga into my daily routine not only decreased my back pain, but it also improved my golf swing."

His experience has encouraged Brosterhous to pass on this knowledge to his golf students.

"We know that most people have back pain," he said. "I want to encourage my golf students to understand how improving core strength and flexibility can not only help them avoid back injury, is but it can also improve their golf swing."

Brosterhous typically takes either a yoga or Pilates exercise class once a week and supplements that with as little as 15 minutes of the exercises each day. Most of us can find 15 minutes somewhere in our day.

As Brosterhous tells his students, "you can do a few minutes of core strengthening and stretching while you are waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning."

A majority of individuals suffering from lower back pain recover better with a short amount of rest accompanied by stretching, gentle movement, ice and possibly anti-inflammatory medicines.

Fabian recommends taking some time to understand the spine. Learn how to use good body mechanics, have a strong and balanced posture and implement back-specific exercises and stretches into your daily routine.

Seek the advice of a physical therapist, a certified Pilates instructor or a yoga instructor regarding exercises and stretches you can do to enhance your own core strength and stability.

Lisa A. Bankard is director of the Wellness and Community Education Program at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

Learn more

This month’s “Taking Care of Me” presentation is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Conference Room 1. The topic is “Golf, Pilates and Low Back Pain.” Henry F. Fabian Jr., M.D., will provide an overview of functional anatomy of the spine relating to the mechanics of golf. This will be followed with hands-on instruction from golf pros Luke Brosterhous and Ann Marie Roberts and Pilates instructor Wendy Puckett. Attendees should bring an 8- or 9-iron to the interactive program.

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