Pilates Stretches for Back, Neck, Shoulder and Hip Pain

Why should we stretch regularly?

Pilates Stretches for Back and Hip Pain  – In our current age of technology, people sit in front of their computers for most part of the day.  Too much sitting causes the hamstrings, shoulders, and hip flexors to become too tight and the core – your abdominals, back, and glutes – become weak.

The Iliopsoas is one of our deepest hip flexor muscles, which connects to our lumbar spine and hip bones.  This muscle becomes tight from sitting too much and will start to pull on the lower spine, thereby causing stiffness and pain in the lower back and hips.

Regularly stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments supporting the spine is an important element of all back-care exercise programs.  Keep your stretches for approximately 30 seconds.  Here are a few easy exercises which can be done at home;-

Pilates Stretches for Back and Hip Pain ?

  • Rest/Child’s pose

On hands and knees reach hips back resting them on the feet or in between the feet.  Keep reaching fingertips forward.  The knees can open wider for a deeper stretch.  If the knees are uncomfortable, use a pillow, yoga block or small box under the pelvis so that the knee flexion is not so extreme.

  • Supine Figure 4/Piriformis Stretch

Lying supine with one foot crossed over the opposite knee, keeping the foot dorsi-flexed.  Pull the other leg in towards the chest by either clasping hands behind the hamstring or the shin.  Focus on allowing the pelvis to slowly drop back down and out towards a neutral spine position.  Push away with the elbow against the bent leg which is on the knee, whilst pulling the knee of the free leg to the chest.  You can also place a raised object under the head, if flexibility is an issue – or place the free foot up against a wall.

  • Supine Happy Baby Stretch

It is a gentle stretch for the hamstrings, inner thigh, and inner groin, a relaxation exercise for the back, and to open up the hips, shoulders, and chest.

Lying on your back, bend the knees to a 90 degree angle, soles of the feet facing up to the ceiling.  Grip the feet with the hands and gently pull your knees towards the mat with the knees as wide open as possible.  Gently rock from side to side.

  • Seated Adductor Stretch

Get into a seated position and bend knees, bringing the soles of the feet together. Hold the feet with the hands and rest the elbows on the knees.  Keep the back flat and straight and allow your knees to open up towards the floor.  Apply gentle pressure on the inner thighs by pressing gently on the inside of the knees with the elbows.

  • Seated Twist

To promote flexibility and mobility in the pelvis, shoulders and spine.

Seated with both legs straight out in front of you, bend your right knee and place your right foot on the ground outside of your left thigh. You can keep your left leg long, or bend it and place your left heel under your right glute. Turn your torso to the right and take your right hand to the ground behind your sacrum. Wrap your left arm around your right leg.

Use your arm pressing into your thigh and your thigh pressing into your arm to twist. Repeat on the other side.

  • Seated Mermaid Stretch (Side Stretch)

This exercise stretches your obliques, shoulders, and inner thighs. It opens your side body, lengthening the muscles between the ribs and pelvis.

Extend the right arm straight up above your head. Keep both shoulders down and away from your ears and the scapula settled in your back.  Bring the inside of the arm as close to the ear as possible without hiking up the shoulder.

Keep the right hip grounded as you lengthen the spine and the stretch moves up through the center of the body. Extend the spine so far up that there is nowhere left to go with the stretch other than taking it over to the side.
Do not allow the ribs to pop forward as you curve to the side.

The supporting hand moves further away from your body to increase the stretch and the the supporting elbow can be placed down onto the floor.

  • Kneeling Iliopsoas Stretch

Can also be done standing or lying down on the side with the back against a wall to ensure that it remains straight.

Start in a lunge position on your knee.  Inch forward the front foot to widen the stance.  Once hand can be placed on the front knee.  Keep the trunk upright and angle the pelvis slightly posterior (try to round the lower back) whilst contracting the abdominal muscles and the hamstrings to increase the stretch of the hip flexors and to alleviate pressure on the lower back.

  • Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

This stretch can also be done standing, seated on a chair or lying down on the back, using a towel over the foot of the leg that is being stretched.  In a kneeling position, straighten one leg with that foot in dorsi-flexion.  The torso is extended over the straight leg in front.  Hands can be placed on the floor next to the straight leg.  The back is flat and the head is aligned with the spine.

Endeavour to keep tilt the pelvis slightly anteriorly tilted (slight arch in the lower back) to intensify the stretch.


What basic Neck and Shoulder Stretches can be done at home? Pilates Stretches for Neck and Shoulders

Basic stretches for neck pain are convenient enough to be done on a regular basis throughout the day, such as at home, at work, or even in the car. Some examples are:

  • Flexion stretch—Chin to Chest

To stretch the neck extensors. Gently bend the head forward, bringing the chin toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the back of the neck. Place the hands lightly on the back of the head to intensify the stretch.

  • Lateral Flexion Stretch—Ear to Shoulder

To stretch the upper trapezius. Bend the neck to one side as if to touch the ear to the shoulder until a stretch is felt in the side of the neck. Keep the shoulders down and back in a comfortable but healthy posture.

  • Levator scapula stretch

In a seated or standing position, reach behind the back with the right arm and hand grasping the right shoulder blade and applying downward pressure. (This step rotates the shoulder blade downward, which helps lengthen the levator scapulae muscle even more before it is stretched.

While keeping everything else still, rotate the head to the left about 45 degrees (which is about halfway toward the shoulder) as though trying to look under the arm.

Tilt the chin downward until a good stretch is felt on the back right side of the neck.

To increase the stretch further, the left hand can be brought up to the back of the head to gently pull down a little more.

  • Doorway stretch

Stand facing the door of a room, and place the hands on each side of the doorway the elbows around shoulder height. Then lean forward or step forward with one leg until a stretch is felt in the front of the shoulders and chest.

  • Straight arm Pectoral Stretch

Stand side-ways to wall and with extended arm place the hand on the wall at shoulder height.  Turn the body away from the hand and the wall and hold.  Then repeat with the opposite arm.

  • Overhead Tricep Stretch

Reach the left arm to the ceiling keeping the shoulder down and away from the ears.  Bend at the elbow and let your left hand drop to the middle of the back, palm facing the back. Reach the right hand to the ceiling and place the fingers  on the left arm to apply light pressure to deepen the stretch.

  • Downward Dog Shoulder & Hamstring Stretch

Place hands on the back support of a chair, the wall or a Barre.  The hands are at shoulder height on the wall or barre.  Walk the feet out until the ankles line up with the hips. The back is flat and the ears line up with the arms.  Soften the knees and try to create a straight horizontal line from your hands to hips by lowering the shoulders. You can also do this stretch by putting your hands on the floor and heels against the wall.



Maintaining full range of motion through the body, will improve posture and balance, which can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum – especially as one gets older.  Co-ordination, flexibility, strength and balance will help with mobility and injury prevention, thereby promoting longevity.

Pilates is also a great strength training method for any cross-training program.  Pilates is all about strength training and increasing flexibility, which are the goals of people looking to cross-train.

The Pilates method works on the foundation core strength where the focus is not only the outer bigger sets of muscles but also the deep inner stabilizing muscles of the spine, pelvis and abdomen.  This core strength supports the back, neck, hips and limbs to increase range of movement in the joints.  This kind of strength and flexibility translates well into all kinds of activities.  So, whether you want functional power, increase bone density, burn more calories, prevent injuries, improve co-ordination, increase your range of movement or improve your posture and alignment, pilates is the perfect cross-training method for anyone.


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