Using Pilates to deal with Back and Neck Pain

Pilates for Neck Pain

Using Pilates to deal with Back and Neck Pain

Most of the Pilates mat exercises strengthen the muscles necessary to properly support the spine and bring an awareness about what proper posture actually is. It’s not enough just to do Pilates mat exercises; if you want to improve your posture and heal your back pain, you must incorporate Pilates into your daily life. You must translate the Neutral Spine, the feeling of length and the Abdominal Scoop into your desk job. If you can incorporate the deeper Pilates concepts into your daily life, you’ll notice changes immediately — in your back pain, in your posture and in your sense of wellbeing.

Tension in the neck and shoulders is one of the most common health complalnts of the modem age. People tend to sit at a computer for hours at a time. Even at the most ergonomic workstation, overtaxing the neck and shoulder muscles is almost impossible to avoid. Being so sedentary isn’t natural, and it’s really straining on your shoulder muscles to hold your arms in front of you for hours at a time as you type. People also tend to hold emotional tension and stress in their necks. Pilates exercises can help you relax those muscles. We have one word for neck and shoulder tension: roller. Using the roller is one of the most effective ways to reduces tension in the upper body.

Easing Your Back Pain with Pilates We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Most back pain is due to faulty posture. And when we say faulty posture, we mean the posture in which spend most of your days.

Do you sit at a desk and stare straight ahead? Unfortunately, many people do, and they find it very difficult to sit up with proper posture for eight hours at a time. It becomes a vicious cycle: First you sit for long periods of time in a way that doesn’t properly support the spine (generally, in a slightly hunched over position). Then you lose strength in your postural muscles by not using them day after day, and then you can’t sit up properly even if you wanted to because you’ve lost strength! What to do? Well guess what? Pilates! Once again, Pilates can save the day.

Most of the Pilates mat exercises strengthen the muscles necessary to properly support the spine and bring an awareness about what proper posture actually is. It’s not enough just to do Pilates mat exercises; if you want to improve your posture and heal your back pain, you must incorporate Pilates into your daily life. You must translate the Neutral Spine, the feeling of length and the Abdominal Scoop into your desk job. If you can incorporate the deeper Pilates concepts into your daily life, you’ll notice changes immediately — in your back pain, in your posture and in your sense of wellbeing.

Understanding the common causes of loWer back pain
Again, most back pain is a result of bad posture when sitting, standing or walking. The main things to remember to prevent bad posture are to sit and stand up tall, keep your belly pulled in and keep your shoulder blades pulling down your back. When you find your correct posture, you should feel the ease it creates in your whole back.

You may need to slowly work up to sitting properly for long periods of time. Even your postural muscles need to get in shape. But the more awareness you have, the better you will feel. If you stand a lot, think of keeping your knees soft; don’t lock them. Try to keep even weight on both legs. Keep your belly pulled in.

But bad posture isn’t the only culprit. A sedentary lifestyle is also often to blame. Let’s face it: We weren’t meant to sit at a computer monitor for eight hours a day — or to sit on a chair at all, for that matter. Sitting isn’t easy on your back. If you think about it, when you sit in a chair, the back muscles have to work all the time to keep you upright. Your legs are not able to help out at all. Furthermore staying in one position doesn’t promote good circulation and muscle tone. Break up your work day by getting up regularly from your chair and stretching out, going for a walk or doing a Pilates series, if you can.

Avoiding Loaded Flexion
Most construction workers, builders and bricklayers have terrible backs by the time they’re 40, because they spend much of their day bending over and lifting up heavy objects. Even if you maintain perfect alignment when lifting, you can’t avoid loading the spine in flexion if you’re installing a floor, say, or doing much of anything below the waist.

Flexion is the rounding forwards of the spine when standing or sitting, or what your spine does when rolling up in a sit-up. Loaded means. . . well, loaded. An example of loading the spine in fiexion is the Rolling Down the Wall exercise if you have free weights in your hands. As you roll forwards, the weight of your head, body and the free weights is dropping down. The muscles and ligaments of the back are supporting that weight. Another example of loaded flexion is the Hip-Up exercise. As you lift your hips, the weight of the butt and legs is now on your back. If you roll back too far, the weight of your whole body will be on your neck. The neck is especially vulnerable to having too much load because it is made up of small, fragile vertebrae that are not meant to hold up anything but your head when standing. When you get very strong in your core, your spine can support more weight without being traumatised.

Flexion is the movement of the spine that most damages the structures of the spine, especially the intervertebral discs and the ligaments of the back. If you feel uncomfortable when doing flexion exercises, don’t do them! Instead, do all the exercises that don’t bother your back, and come back to the others when you have more strength.

To avoid loaded flexion, use proper body mechanics when bending over and lifting:

  • Keep Neutral Spine. You can just think of keeping the spine straight. Don’t round the back forwards (flexion).
  • Bend your knees; and if you’re lifting something, use your leg muscles, not your back!
  • Keep your Abdominal Scoop by pulling your navel in towards your spine. Doing so helps support the back.

Being your own guide
A well-known doctor named Robin McKenzie wrote a book called Treat Your Own Back, which revolutionised the way the rehabilitation profession viewed back pain. Basically, the book describes a program in which you experiment and find out what movements exacerbate your back pain, and what movements and positions alleviate your back pain. Then you do the things that make you feel better. It sounds so fabulously simple, and it works. We agree with this approach and suggest that you follow the same principles when doing Pilates.

Let pain be your guide, not your nemesis. When trying a new exercise, see if the movement makes your back pain worse or better. Use this information to heal yourself. For instance, if you find that flexion (rounding the spine forwards), as in Spine Stretch Forwards, makes your back feel great, then you can proceed with all the flexion exercises with a fair bit of confidence. In that case, exercises that do the opposite movement, extension (arching the back), as in the Rising Swan, may make your back hurt. If this is so, avoid all exercises that extend the back. The act of twisting may be the source of the problem, or it could be twisting in just one direction. Take note of what hurts and apply this information to your workout.

When you’re in pain, you must be very mindful when trying out new exercises. We recommend seeing a doctor first to make sure you don’t have any serious injury, and then going to a Pilates instructor trained in rehabilitation if you are worried about hurting yourself.

Source


If you’re looking for pilates in Hillsboro, Oregon, look no further than Balance Massage + Core Fitness Studio. We are a fully equipped massage and fitness practice located in downtown Hillsboro. Our core fitness studio features STOTT Pilates®, the gold standard in Pilates training, using specialized equipment. We offer 20 group fitness classes per week, including Zumba, Zenga, and Total Barre, as well as private instruction from our highly qualified team. Much of our massage practice is focused on injury recovery, relief from pain, and car accident and workers compensation rehabilitation. We also provide a variety of massage treatments purely for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Whether you enjoy the attention of one-on-one private training, or the excitement of a group fitness class, Balance Massage & Core Fitness Studio has the right training options to help you meet your fitness, physical therapy, and relaxation goals.

Balance Massage and Core Fitness Studio

Address
233 SE Washington Street, Suite 103
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123

Phone: 503.352.9685
Email: info@balance-mf.com