My opinion is that if you’re taking any sort of “class” in general (I’m not just picking on yoga/pilates/barre, I’m also including crossfit or “mommy bootcamp”, etc.) to fix an injury or stiff/painful area in your body, you have a faulty line of thinking. The analogy I like to use is hoping a class will “fix” your problems is much like shooting darts towards a bull’s eye blindfolded. You’re generally aiming in the right direction but you have no idea if you’re gonna hit the target or hit the wall. You may serendipitously hit the target or at least the dartboard, but most of the time you’re going to be off the mark. Bringing this back to how your yoga/pilates/barre class isn’t going to fix your back pain- sometimes you find that whatever you did in class made you instantly feel better! Or other times, some of the exercises made no difference or made you feel worse! That’s why it’s so important to have a proper evaluation by an appropriate medical/health professional i.e. Physical Therapist, Chiropractor or Medical Doctor (More on who the best person to see for my back/neck/shoulder/knee pain in a later post).
Here are my top 5 Reasons why you shouldn’t take a yoga/pilates/barre class to fix your pain:
1) There’s typically at least 15-20 people (usually more) in a class– Even if the instructor is fabulous and experienced, chances are he/she is going to miss some pretty crappy form with some of the exercises
2) The yoga/pilates/barre instructor can’t give you a lot of individualized attention which some of you may need- All kinds of people show up to classes with a variety of fitness levels and injuries. Paying close attention to one person in the class detracts from the experience of all the other participants in the class. So, typically the instructor will just give you a modification for some of the exercises but that’s about it (there’s no way they can evaluate you and figure out WHY you can’t do it)
3) They are exercise instructors and generally not licensed medical/health professionals so they don’t have the necessary education and it’s not in their scope of practice to diagnose your back pain and prescribe you exercise for it (although sometimes they are both i.e. I’m a licensed Physical Therapist and taught a Pilates reformer class for years)
4) Some exercises may make you worse, depending on why you’re having back pain. For example, pilates mat classes tend to have a bias towards flexion or rounding of the spine which generally can be aggravating to a disc problem. In barre class, I’ve had a number of patients complain of neck pain from the high number of push ups and planks in class (and when your core and shoulders aren’t strong enough, you’ll tend to overuse your neck). In yoga, my hypermobile patients tend to stretch too far and aggravate their backs/hips.
5) You may be wasting time or delaying treatment for an injury. If you are having pain, a medical/health professional will perform an evaluation and determine what specific strengths and weaknesses you have as well as possibly perform some manual treatment which may include ART (active release technique), soft/deep tissue massage, joint mobilization/manipulation. They’ll be able to outline a specific treatment plan rather than “shoot darts blindly toward a target”. If I had a dollar for every time a patient said to me, “I wish I’d known/come to you sooner rather than suffering with this problem for as long as I did”, I’d be a rich woman.