Spending Just 10 Minutes Doing These Four Pilates Moves Can Help You Avoid Back Pain

Woman performs swan Pilates move at home
(Image credit: martinedoucet / Getty Images)

If you have recurring aches and pains in your back, you’re not alone. A review of global studies found that up to 84% of adults worldwide have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. I talked to Pilates instructor and founder of SW4 Pilates, Chiara Boswell, about how Pilates can help you avoid back pain.

“Most of the time, unless it’s a disc problem, back pain is due to lack of movement,” says Boswell. “With sedentary or desk-bound people, they are just not moving their spine enough.”

“I see this every day, but I also see people improving within a few sessions,” Boswell. “Their pain is gone and they are working on their mobility—true mobility takes time.” That’s certainly encouraging. While there’s no one (or even four) Pilates moves that will relieve your back pain, introducing more movement and mobility into your weekly routine will help you see longer-term improvements.

“Moving all the joints makes sure your blood circulates, there as well bringing oxygen to the stiffer joints, muscles, tendons and organs. Together with deep breathing, you develop this flow of movement.”

Pilates For Back Pain


As with anything new, when doing these exercises take it gently, and stop if it hurts. If you’re currently experiencing a flare-up of back pain, it’s best to consult your doctor or physiotherapist before trying new exercises.

1 Cat-cow

Reps 10-15

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back and lift your head and tailbone towards the ceiling (cow pose), then exhale as you round your spine upward and tuck your chin towards your chest (cat pose).

2 Spine stretch forward

Reps 10-15

Sit on the mat with your legs extended in front of you, feet flexed and hip-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you, palms facing down. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you drop your head and reach your arms forward, lengthening your spine forward over your legs into a ‘C’ curve. Imagine you are curling forward over a ball. Inhale to return, starting the movement from the base of the spine, returning to the starting position sitting up straight on the mat.

3 Swan

Reps 6

Lie on your front, your hands on the mat under your shoulders with elbows bent and tucked into your sides, looking down at the mat. Inhale as you lift your head and neck off the mat, gaze forward as you start lengthening towards the front of your mat, and exhale as you lift one bit of your chest off the mat at a time. “If your back feels OK you can lift off the mat all the way up to your belly button, making sure you’re still able to breathe deeply and engage your thighs on the mat,” says Boswell.

4 Swimming

Reps 10-15

Lie on your front on the mat with your arms and legs extended. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground. Reach your arms and legs away from each other as you pulse them up and down. Inhale to lower back to the start.

About Our Expert
About Our Expert
Chiara Boswell

Chiara Boswell has a BSc in Sports Therapy and studied classical Pilates, completing a 950-hour teacher training course at The Pilates Center in Colorado, USA. She also has a certification in prenatal and postnatal recovery from the Center For Women’s Fitness. She has worked with rugby teams, footballers, runners and professional dancers as well as helping people with injuries and back pain.

Camilla Artault
Content editor

Camilla Artault is a writer and keen runner. She has covered women’s running gear – testing leggings, jackets, running bras, tops and shorts – for Coach since 2018, as well as interviewing experts and writing about a range of health and lifestyle topics.