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Back pain relief 101

Updated: Apr 12

My 3 go-to exercises for back pain relief.

As a former rugby player and diehard sports and exercise fanatic, I am no stranger to sports injuries. The thrills and spills of the game sometimes came at a price. Having tried various treatments and therapies, I stumbled across Pilates exercises and focused breathing techniques which totally changed the game for me. In this article, I will share my personal experience of how Pilates and breathing exercises helped me manage my back pain effectively. Additionally, I will provide you with three go-to tips that can offer instant relief from back pain.

My Journey with Back Pain: My love for all things sports and my career in both codes of rugby left me with more than just unforgettable memories; it also gave me the gift of persistent back pain. Whether it was tackling opponents or sprinting down the field, my body bore the brunt of the intense physical demand of the sport. Over time, this resulted in a series of injuries, including strained muscles and, most significantly, lumbar disc and vertebral damage leading to chronic pain.

Discovering Pilates: Desperate for relief, I started researching alternative methods to manage my back pain. That's when I stumbled upon Pilates. This low-impact exercise regime focuses on core strength, flexibility, and posture - all of which are crucial elements in combating back pain. Here's how Pilates made a significant impact on my recovery:

a) Core strengthening: Pilates exercises specifically target the muscles that support the spine, helping to stabilize and strengthen the core. This increased core strength alleviated a significant amount of my back pain. b) Improved flexibility: Pilates encourages flexibility in the muscles and joints, reducing the general stiffness that often accompanies back pain. My return to flexibility allowed me greater freedom of movement and less discomfort. c) Postural correction: Proper alignment and posture are crucial in preventing and managing back pain. Pilates emphasizes body awareness and alignment and has helped me to correct my posture, reducing the strain on my back.

Focus on Breathing: In addition to Pilates, I also discovered the importance of focused breathing techniques in managing back pain. These techniques not only help relax tense muscles but also promote overall relaxation and mental clarity and increase energy levels. Here's how focused breathing complemented my journey to recovery: a) Deep breathing: When experiencing a sudden flare-up of back pain, take a moment to practice deep breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Pause briefly between the in and the out breath, the out and the in breath. Repeat this several times to relax tense muscles. b) Managing your nervous system: Chronic pain often stresses the nervous system and encourages stress-type responses. Mindful breathing techniques, such as meditation, helped me to manage this and reduce the impact of pain on my daily life. c) Mindbody connection: Developing a strong mindbody connection through breathing exercises enabled me to better understand and manage my pain. I became more attuned to my body's signals and responded with appropriate relaxation techniques.

Tip #1 - Ribcage Expansion

When you're feeling tight and uncomfortable and breathing-restricted, try this 5 minute exercise for quick relief. You can use a foam roller or a cushion. The exercise aims to release tension by expanding the ribcage.


1. Set up: Kneel on a comfortable surface with a foam roller or cushion under your ribs. Place your elbows on the mat if possible.

2. Spinal rounding: Allow your spine to gently round without dropping your neck too much, creating a slight arch in your upper back with support from the roller or cushion.

3. Focused breathing: Close your eyes, inhale deeply through your nose, focusing on expanding the back of your ribs.

4. Exhale slowly: Exhale gently through your mouth, lie a slow sigh, releasing tension in your ribcage.

5. Repeat and rest: Do this for 5-10 breath cycles and then take a short break, before repeating a couple more times.

6. Feel the expansion: After a few rounds, you should notice greater expansion in your ribcage when breathing and more freedom in your mid and lower back.

7. Continue: Keep going until you experience relief. Adjust the number of breaths and repeated rounds of the exercise based on the speed and degree of relief it gives you.

This quick exercise relieves tightness and discomfort in your back by releasing tension and expanding your ribcage. Use it whenever needed for immediate relief.

Tip #2 - Traction and Ribcage Expansion for Back Pain Relief

Combining traction with ribcage expansion can be a sound method to relieve back pain. Traction gently stretches the spine, reducing pressure on compressed discs and nerves, while ribcage expansion enhances thoracic mobility and promotes better breathing and energy levels.


1. Find a Traction Point: Look for a sturdy structure where you can create traction. This could be a tree, a stair banister, a kitchen counter, or any secure object that allows you to hang back safely.

2. Squat: Hold onto your traction point and lower yourself into a squat position, sitting down onto your heels. Let your shoulders be gently pulled upward, creating spinal traction.

3. Focus on Breath: Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Inhale, emphasizing expansion in the back of your ribcage.

4. Expand the Ribcage: As you breathe, encourage your ribcage to expand outward during inhalation, allowing your lungs to fill with air.

5. Repeat and Release: Take 5-8 deep breaths in this position, then release the traction, standing up.

6. Repeat as Needed: Repeat this sequence 3-4 times for back pain relief.

"You are only as young as your spine." – Joseph Pilates

Tip #3 - Lateral Ribcage Expansion for Back Relief

Promote lateral expansion of your ribcage to relieve back tension and open up the back muscles.


1. Position Yourself: Begin by lying on your side with a cushion placed under your ribs for support. Ensure your head is comfortably positioned.

2. Inhale for Expansion: Inhale deeply through your nose, directing your breath into the ribs on the side you're lying on. Feel the lateral expansion as you breathe in.

3. Gentle Exhalation: Exhale slowly and gently through your mouth, allowing any tension to release.

4. Reach Overhead (optional): If you desire more lateral expansion, reach your arm overhead on the side you're lying on. This can enhance the stretch and expansion.

5. Repeat Cycles: Complete 5-8 breath cycles in this position. Aim to go through this sequence three times in total.

6. Try Both Sides: If you have time and want to balance your lateral expansion, repeat the exercise on the other side. However, if you feel one side is tighter, focus on that side for greater relief.

For more info on back pain relief check us out

If you've found these tips helpful for relieving back pain, consider exploring more by visiting our website at

Your journey to a pain-free and healthier spine begins with us!

We are located in Morden but surrounding areas that local to us is Raynes Park, Worcester, Sutton.


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