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The Most Common Pilates Injuries (And How To Avoid Them)

Many people turn to Pilates to seek relief from chronic pain or to aid in injury recovery. Several research studies support Pilates’ role in pain relief and as an effective rehabilitation tool.

However, did you know that Pilates can actually agitate old injuries or cause new ones if not practised with caution?

Pilates injuries are typically due to incorrect form or pushing yourself too far, so it's essential to learn from a certified Pilates instructor and respect your body and its limitations.

So what are the most common Pilates injuries and what measures can you take to avoid them and enjoy a therapeutic mind and body workout? Let’s find out.

What Are The Most Common Pilates Injury?

The most common injuries in Pilates are muscle strains, ligament sprains, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Let’s explore the differences between each one of them and their causes.

Muscle strains

Muscle strains are the most common injuries in Pilates, caused by overstretching and over-exercising. It can happen by overusing a muscle (such as doing too many planks) or by incorrect form, the latter of which is the most common reason in pilates.

Strains in the back muscles are super common as Pilates focuses heavily on core work. If the core muscles are not actively engaged when doing these exercises or your core is weak, your back muscles will take the excess strain, resulting in pains and aches. This is most common in beginners, as studies have shown the stronger your core becomes, the less likely back pain will occur.

Neck muscles are another common strain in core work. For example, holding your neck in an incorrect position in a single-leg stretch could cause a tear. But strains can happen in any part of your body, which is why learning the proper form is essential when beginning Pilates.

Ligament Sprains

The second most commonly reported injury in Pilates is ligament strainsUnlike a muscle strain, a sprain is an injury to a ligament (or sometimes a tendon) - tissues that connect the bones of a joint.

Sprains can also occur in the upper body, particularly the wrists and neck. For example, your hand could slip on the mat in an exercise like all fours, causing a painful sprain to the wrist.


Many new Pilates practitioners report muscle soreness for one or two days after a class, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is different from a muscle strain which causes pain immediately. With DOMS, you don’t notice it until the next day.

What’s more, DOMS is a feeling of general soreness in a major muscle group rather than a targeted pain in a specific muscle. DOMS can last up to a few days and does not cause any long-lasting muscle damage.

There are various theories about why DOMS happens; one common belief is that it is due to the unfamiliar and unaccustomed stress placed on muscles, ligaments and tendons. This is why taking it easy in your first couple of Pilates classes is essential.

DOMS doesn't just happen to beginners, though. You may experience it if you've tried a new exercise or increased the intensity or frequency of your practice.

Which Pilates Exercises Are Most Prone To Injuries?

As the intensity level of pilates movements varies, some are more prone to injury than others. Here are a few to pay extra attention to:

  • Roll-Ups - This pilates move can cause lower back injuries if you have tight hip flexors or weak core muscles. Notice if you have to find momentum when rolling up or if you struggle to roll down slowly and with control. If so, try a supported roll-up with your hands on the back of your thighs until you develop more muscle strength.
  • Leg Stretch & Leg Circles - It can be easy to press your spine too firmly into the mat in these reclined positions. While you may think the ground will support your back, doing this too much can create spinal disc compression. Ask your Pilates teacher to show you how to find a neutral spine position to prevent this.
  • Plank Leg Lifts - All beginner Pilates practitioners should be cautious in plank leg lifts. Improper wrist alignment combined with weak upper body muscles can quickly result in a sprained wrist. To modify, come down onto your forearms or drop your bottom knee and forearm in a side plank.

Both mat and reformer pilates have their unique dangers. For example, if your mat is too thin, you can cause strain to your knees or wrists in specific mat pilates postures. Meanwhile, it is easy to hit your knee or ankle bones on the hard bars of a reformer machine, resulting in pain and potential bruising.

How To Avoid Injuries In Your Pilates Practice

While various injuries can happen during Pilates, don't fret. If you practise caution and respect your body, you can easily avoid them. Follow the tips below to ensure you keep aches and pains away.

Do Warm Up Exercises

One of the biggest mistakes when practising Pilates at home is not warming up properly. If you are starting a home practice, ensure you know the correct movements and stretches to warm up your muscles before attempting the more challenging postures.

My go-to warm-up exercises include:

  • Imprinting - This reclined position helps to lengthen your spine and build stability in your back by cultivating a neutral spine. This is an essential foundational pilates pose to do before ANY core work.
  • Wall roll-down - A standing roll-down gives a gentle stretch to the spine and back muscles, along with opening the hamstrings. It also teaches correct posture and abdominal engagement, helping you prepare for more challenging movements like the roll-up. Wear pilates socks for stability and focus on pressing into all four corners of your feet as you roll down.
  • Rolling like a ball - This is another excellent prep pose for the roll-up as it builds body awareness, promotes breath control, and strengthens the abdominal muscles. It is also a fantastic release on the lower back, so it feels particularly juicy if you have been sitting at a desk all day. I like to include this pose in both the warm-up and cool-down of my pilates practice.

Start Slow and Progress Gradually

While trying the tricky-looking Pilates moves can be tempting, if you are new to the practice, I strongly recommend waiting before you give them a go. Attempting advanced postures before you are ready is a surefire way to cause an injury.

Honour your body and enjoy the process by focusing on finding your alignment and stability in the foundational poses. There will be plenty of time to learn advanced movements in the future!

Focus on Proper Alignment

Refrain from rushing through the movements or taking shortcuts, as this often comes hand-in-hand with incorrect alignment. Without proper form, you won't evenly distribute your weight or effort, significantly increasing the risk of strain or injury.

If you are unsure of the correct alignment of a pose, don't be afraid to interrupt the class to ask the instructor. And for this reason, don't start practising at home until you fully understand the proper form for each pose.

Engage Your Core

Do you notice your back hurts after doing leg lifts or toe taps? This could be because you're not properly engaging your core muscles, resulting in the back muscles working overtime!

By engaging your muscles, you protect your spine and create more stability in the pose (so less shaking). A qualified and experienced Pilates instructor will demonstrate and explain how to engage your entire core (deep abdominal, pelvic floor, and stabilising muscles).

Moreover, if you are new to core exercises, it's best to stick with beginner-friendly ones to build strength.

Listen to Your Body

Our bodies are intelligent enough to warn us when we're pushing ourselves too far. But unfortunately, we often ignore these signs and continue regardless. Cue painful injury!

I always take a few minutes to check in with how I am feeling at the beginning of each practice. This is essential because our energy levels are fleeting, and we must honour how we feel each day. If you feel fatigued, take this as a sign to slow down today. Save the challenging poses like Boomerang for those days you feel like Superwoman!

How Proper Equipment & Activewear Can Help Prevent Injuries

Pilates equipment, accessories, and even activewear can help to keep us injury-free in Pilates. From grip socks that prevent slips and falls to cushioned mats that protect your joints, here are the essential pilates items to enjoy a fun but safe practice.

  • Pilates Mat - To protect your joints and increase comfort, choose a well-cushioned mat. I recommend a 6mm thickness or above. This is especially important if you have past injuries, sensitive joints, or just boney knees. But make sure your mat has a non-slip, grippy texture to keep you firmly in place.
  • Reformer Mat - A reformer mat will keep you protected and comfortable during your reformer classes. They have a non-slip texture, which enhances grip and traction and reduces slipping. Therefore, you will feel stable and secure as you execute the movements without worrying about the dreaded knee knocks on the rigid bar.
  • Supportive Activewear - Did you know the clothes you wear during your pilates practice can increase or decrease your safety? Choose clothes that don't restrict your movement but support your core, back, and chest (such as padded sports bras). You may also want to wear full-length leggings rather than shorts to protect your ankle and shin bones from the reformer bars.
  • Grippy Socks - Grip socks are an essential accessory for all types of pilates practice. Unlike regular socks, pilates socks have unique grippy soles to increase traction and balance in standing positions. They are also essential in reformers as they protect your feet from the metal equipment and increase stability so you don't fall and hurt yourself.

Here at Just Flow, we are passionate about helping Pilates lovers enjoy a safe and comfortable practice. That's why we created a wide range of Pilates socks to prevent slips and falls and improve foot health.

Our unique toe grip socks stretch and strengthen the toe muscles to improve posture, alignment, and weight distribution. Meanwhile, our crew grip socks rise to the mid-calf for full ankle coverage. They will keep you warm and toasty and offer a layer of protection on the reformer's machine.

Say goodbye to injuries and pain; browse our Pilates socks collections and find the perfect pair of grippy socks to stay safe in your practice.

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