Pilates for Neck Pain
There is nothing worst than waking up in the morning with neck pain. Similar to lower back pain, neck pain is classified as either being:
- . Specific mechanical neck pain
- . Non-specific mechanical neck pain
Neck pain, while not as common as lower back pain, occurs in just under 70% of the population and is generally more prevalent in women.
Specific neck pain comes from a specific source in your neck, for example disc prolapse or stenosis (narrowing of the space around your nerves and spinal cord). This type of neck pain can cause symptoms in our arms and/or legs, including pain, pins & needles, numbness and weakness. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, it is important that you see your local GP and/or chartered Physiotherapist for assessment.
Non-specific mechanical neck pain refers to neck and/or shoulder pain without an underlying disease. This means that your neck pain can come from any structure in your neck and shoulder region which has a nerve supply such as your muscles, ligaments, joints and discs. Most people suffer from this type of neck pain.
What causes non-specific mechanical neck pain?
The exact cause of neck pain is unknown however it is strongly linked to:
- . Prolonged computer use
- . Poor posture
- . Repetitive movements
Other factors which also influence our perception of neck pain include:
- . Stress
- . Depression
- . Individual coping strategies
What could be our neck pain source?
1. Increase activity of our upper Trapezius muscle, often causes discomfort and muscle spasm. This can occur as a result of both mental and physical stress.
2. Muscle imbalance between different muscles in our neck can also cause neck discomfort. This is where our deep stabilising muscles are weak and our larger muscles (muscles which move our head) such as our sternocleidomastoid muscles (in front of our neck) are over activity and doing too much work. Achieving the correct muscle balance may help reduce your neck discomfort.
3. A stiff neck can also cause discomfort. It is important that you can move you neck up/down, from ear to ear and over each shoulder Sometimes if our muscles in our neck and shoulders are tight or overactive they can limit us moving our neck. Relaxing our muscles and learning how to move your neck may help with some of your discomfort.
How does Reformer Pilates help?
Exercises aimed at strengthening our deep stabilising muscles in our neck and in our shoulder region have been shown to be effective in the management of neck and shoulder pain. There are many exercises on the reformer machine which can help strengthen these muscles. You can also do some of these exercises on the floor at home to further help your rehab.
As well as body and core control, one of the main principles of Pilates is breath control and diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing pattern often allows us to switch off our neck muscles which are overactive allowing us to move more freely.
TIP: Next time you are lying on the reformer feel the muscles in the front of your neck and see if they are relaxed. If not; try to focus on breathing deep into your lower rib cage, allowing your head to become heavy and see if you can relax. You can also practice this at home.
TIP: Practice 20-30 minutes of some mindfulness at home trying to let go of some of your every-day stresses.