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Pilates for Neck Pain: Exercises that Support and Protect the Spine

Neck pain is a common issue that can stem from any number of causes. From sleep, stress, or posture, there are a wide variety of culprits.

Luckily, depending on the cause – and with a doctor’s approval – Pilates can help prevent and alleviate neck pain, so you can return to feeling your best.

Instructor modifications

If you are experiencing neck pain and are interested in taking a Pilates class, you definitely can. Again, this depends on the source of the issue, i.e. if it’s from sleeping poorly or some sort of injury. If you experience moderate or severe neck pain or have any concerns, we always recommend consulting with a doctor and following their recommendations.

If you have light to moderate neck pain and limited range of motion from the daily wear and tear of life, then Pilates could be a great way to alleviate symptoms and prevent further aches and pains.

If you come to a class with any sort of injury or pain, it’s important to discuss these issues with the instructor before class.

Our instructors are trained to modify exercises for anyone who needs it, but they can’t help you if they don’t know about it! So always discuss any limitations with instructors before class. They’ll help you modify exercises to protect your body, while still providing you with a great workout.

“If a client comes to me with neck pain, I usually recommend lighter weights for arm work and a decreased range of motion (hands stay below shoulders). I advise against crunches while we focus on the client’s core getting stronger to avoid any neck straining. I’ll also pay closer attention to the client’s form throughout class, making sure their shoulders stay relaxed and away from the ears and find proper core engagement. Most importantly, I encourage clients to listen to their bodies and to take breaks!” – Alex G.M., RTR instructor

How Pilates can alleviate neck pain

Increased tension and fatigue on the neck and shoulder muscles can happen for several reasons, but we are seeing an increasing number of issues related to the neck due to poor posture and hunching over computer screens. Working a desk job, in addition to being stressful, can create a number of posture-related issues.

Neck pain can also lead to shoulder pain, tight muscles, and headaches. That said, multiple studies have found that regular Pilates exercises can significantly decrease neck pain in a relatively short period of time.

Strengthening the muscles that support an upright and aligned posture can promote improved spinal stability, which decreases neck tension and pain.

Supporting the spine

Pilates focuses on building core strength, flexibility, and stability in the body. By strengthening the core, lower back, pelvis, and glutes, a regular Pilates routine can build foundational muscle groups that are instrumental in supporting the spine. Over time, these exercises can improve posture and alignment and decrease neck pain.

Posture and alignment

Your abs and back muscles work together to support your spine and neck. If these muscles are underdeveloped, then your neck and scapula take on additional pressure, which can make it difficult to experience a full range of motion without pain.

In reformer Pilates, we target the muscles in the neck and upper back that help keep your spine upright, which can improve posture. We help bring the spine back to its natural, neutral position, with your head and neck in line with your shoulders.

I’d say the most common complaints we have from clients are neck and low back pain. Most clients note that they see significant improvements once their cores and backs get stronger and they stretch out their chest muscles.” – Alex G.M., RTR Instructor

Breath work

Many people experiencing neck pain hold increased tension in their bodies. Pilates’ focus on deep breathing promotes healthy habits that release unwanted tension around the neck.

Stress release

Neck pain is often the result of significant stress. In general, a regular exercise routine decreases stress and anxiety to improve overall mood and well-being. Pilates specifically is great for stress release because of the focus on centered alignment, breathing, and control over the body. These moments of stillness and inward focus promote stress relief that will follow you outside the studio and into your daily life.

If you experience neck pain during class

Always let an instructor know if you are experiencing pain in your neck during class. They can evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain.

Similarly, it’s important to let your instructor know if you are new to Pilates. They can help keep an eye on your form in order to provide additional instructions as necessary, so you can get the most out of your workout and prevent injuries.

Remember: our instructors are here to help you get the most out of your time in our class. If you have any questions, ask!

Start reducing your neck pain today

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