Yoga and Pilates: Which is Better for Back Pain?


Standing yoga pose

Yoga and back pain


Has your back been feeling kinda crummy lately? Tired of having to take medications and make frequent trips to the doctor just to get some relief? Well, it’s possible that you might ease some of your back pain by engaging in either yoga or palates. However, which one is best for back treatment?

The Research

Susan Sorosky, Sonja Stilp and Venu Akuthota wrote an article entitled “Yoga and pilates in the management of low back pain” in 2008. In this piece, they noted that “Yoga and pilates…address both the physical and mental aspects of pain…although few studies examining their efforts have been published.” Therefore, using yoga and pilates to treat back pain is still a fairly new phenomenon. You’ll want to consult with your doctor to figure out the best plan for you.

 Calorie Burning

Exercise with pilates poses

Pilates and back pain

In some cases, back pain can be associated with being overweight. Therefore, engaging in a more calorie burning exercises could potentially help to ease some of that strain on your body. “Yoga vs. Pilates” written by Naomi Barr and published on Oprah’s website pits yoga and pilates against each other in the calorie burning race, and it seems that pilates wins. According to the article, a 50 minute hatha yoga class will burn about 145 calories, while a beginner pilates session will burn about 175 in the same time frame. At the advanced level, pilates will shed 255 to 375 calories, and a power yoga session will burn about 250.

 Flexibility and Strength

Barr also goes on to discuss the ways in which pilates and yoga can also help to build strength and flexibility. According to the results of Barr’s studies and research, yoga does more at improving the upper body strength. However, pilates are reported to strengthen “overall flexibility…particularly in the back, hip, and hamstrings.” When it comes to either pilates or yoga being better for your back pain, the evidence does point to pilates as the better option. However, that does not deem yoga unsuitable.

 Your Personal Best

Even after we’ve looked at the figures and facts, you might still be more inclined to participate in yoga activities due to your own personal interests and/or advice from your doctor. Clearly, yoga can benefit you in both the strength training and calorie burning areas. If you have severe back pain, engaging in pilates, especially more advanced classes in the discipline, might be difficult or even impossible for you. If you push your body too hard, you could wind up having even more back pain than that with which you began! Therefore, you need to choose the workout regime that feels the best to you and that works the best with your doctor’s requests and recommendations.

It can be difficult to choose on specific treatment regime and stick with it. Fortunately, yoga and pilates offer exciting alternatives to some of the traditional ways of treating back pain. In addition to being able to choose the level at which you would like to work, you can head to yoga and/or pilates class with your friends!


Kyle Sanchez writes about health, finance & dental insurance.

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One Response to Yoga and Pilates: Which is Better for Back Pain?

  1. Pingback: Three Relaxing Ways To Relieve Back Pain | Chronic Back Pain

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