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Pain Anywhere and Its Effect on Core Muscles: What Pilates Teachers Need to Know

Running Pain
Feeling Pain

As Pilates teachers, we often encounter clients complaining of various types of pain. While we're not healthcare providers, it's crucial to understand how different forms of discomfort can affect the core muscles' engagement during Pilates sessions.

The Importance of Core Muscles

The core muscles, particularly the transverse abdominis, stabilise the spine, pelvis, and shoulders, providing a solid base for movement in any direction. A strong core improves balance, posture, and functional movement.

How Pain Affects the Core

Back Pain

Clients with back pain may find it challenging to fully engage their core, leading to further issues. In such instances, consider gentle exercises that subtly activate the core without exacerbating the pain.

Hip or Pelvic Pain

Pain in the hips or pelvis can hamper the effective engagement of the core muscles. Gentle, targeted exercises focusing on hip alignment can be beneficial.

Shoulder or Neck Pain

Although not directly related to the core, pain in the shoulder or neck can hinder posture, thereby affecting core muscle engagement.

Menstrual Pain

Discomfort from menstrual periods can alter posture and the ability to engage the core muscles, including the transverse abdominis. During menstruation, increased prostaglandins lead to uterine contractions and cramps, potentially affecting core stability. Adapt exercises according to each individual's comfort and pain levels.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain can also affect core engagement. The discomfort may lead to postural changes, affecting the natural function of the transverse abdominis. Some Pilates exercises that focus on deep breathing and gentle core engagement may help alleviate some IBS symptoms.

Adjusting Exercises for Pain

For clients experiencing pain, it's vital to modify exercises to prevent worsening the condition. Always recommend that they consult a healthcare provider for a full diagnosis and treatment plan.


Understanding the various types of pain that can affect core muscle engagement is crucial for Pilates teachers. While we should defer to healthcare professionals for diagnosis and treatment, being informed enables us to adapt our teaching methods to better assist clients in achieving their wellness goals.

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