Back-pain can severely impact the quality of your life as well as making you miserable. And sometimes it can feel like you’ll never get rid of it – even when you seem to be doing all the right things, like going to Pilates classes...
Over the years, I’ve observed many hundreds of clients who come to me in pain. And I’ve noticed a couple of key differences between those who get better and those who don’t.
The ones who don’t get rid of their back-pain tend to make one (or both!) of these two common mistakes in their approach to exercise:
It’s quite natural to look at the other people in the class to see how they are doing the exercises. And sometimes you might be impressed by the amount of sit-ups, or press-ups, friends can do.
What this can lead to, for some people, is trying to keep up, or even outdo others. If the person next to them is doing the exercise with both hands off the ground and one leg in the air, then they might be tempted to do that too. Perhaps because they think they should by this point be doing the high level exercises, or they don’t want to be the only one who isn’t.
Or they believe that “doing more is the same as doing better”. (Of course in some exercises classes you may even be encouraged to “push yourself”.)
The truth is, the single most important thing when it comes to exercise is to work within your own capacity (through listening to your own body). Regardless of what everyone else is doing. (That’s why I give individual modifications and various levels for each exercise.)
If you don't follow this golden rule, you won’t get the specific benefits of the exercise at the level you are at. And you then have nothing to build on. And you are likely to strain the very muscles you are hoping to strengthen and heal.
There is a common misconception about exercise: “if it doesn’t hurt it can’t be working”.
In fact this is completely untrue. But I have observed that some clients want to "feel something happening” when they are exercising (otherwise it can’t be working!).
However the Douglas Method is about ensuring that you are prescribed the correct exercise, at the correct level, for your specific requirements. It is not about how much you are feeling at all.
Of course how much you feel depends on your body awareness and this is a skill that most people have to develop. Those who keep aiming to make “something that they can feel” happen will never learn to feel what is actually happening. Plus they just keep stressing those same muscles, which are in the habit of kicking in, and the pain doesn’t go away.
As you know I believe that it is not just important, it is CRUCIAL to do the exercise correctly – for you. This may mean trusting that it is working even though you can’t yet "feel" it.
So if you want to get rid of your back-pain, don’t try to compete or compare yourself to others. And please don't try to "feel the burn"! Just stay within your capacity, concentrate on you and do the exercise as prescribed. (If in doubt - ask!)
And if you really want to “push yourself” – push yourself to actually do your exercises at your level more often (i.e. between classes), rather than pushing yourself through the exercises.