Don’t let your workout be a pain in the neck!
Neck pain and tension is one of the most common niggles that people and clients suffer from, and sadly with technology continuously rising it’s an issue that is only going to become worse. Dealing with neck and shoulder pain (which often go hand in hand) is something us Pilates instructors are pretty well accustomed to, meaning we know exactly what movements you should be doing, and what movements we should probably avoid.
So why is neck pain such a common issue? Generally, neck pain comes from misalignment of the head and cervical spine. Sadly, technology is making spinal misalignment much more common from our phone screens, IPads, smart watches, computers and TV’s. They surround us everywhere and are something that in this day and age, is unavoidable. Screen time has us hunching forward and sitting on our bums for hours on end! The problem with the ‘hunch’ that comes from sitting on our phones or laptops all day is that it creates a ‘C’ shape in our spines. Humans are designed to be upright, with ‘S’ shaped spines. Interestingly, when our heads (that are usually about 5kg heavy) are pushed forward even as slightly as 15% out of alignment, an extra 12kg of pressure is added to all of the muscles in your neck, shoulders and upper back! That’s a lot of weight for all of those muscles to support, especially if they aren’t strong enough to support it!
So, enough talk about sore necks. Let’s talk about how to reduce the pain. Pilates! (I bet you’re surprised about that one). So how does Pilates help? Well, there’s a few things that contribute to long term pain relief.
1. Stretching! In order to strengthen and restore, first we need to stretch. Regaining mobility throughout your shoulders and your spines ultimately reduces the stress through your whole body. You can do this through multiple different movements, all practiced within the Pilates repertoire. We use movements within our warmups that focus especially and scapula mobilization, as well as neck mobilization.
2. Believe it or not, the next key thing to do is strengthen. Being sedentary will weaken all of your postural muscles. Thankfully, Pilates focuses on strengthening all the weaker postural muscles within all movements. Correct alignment is key for all movements. If by any chance you are stiff going into your workout, here’s a few tips to avoid discomfort.
- Relax your shoulders and upper back!
- Target and strengthen your lats (wing shaped muscles under your arms) during your workout.
- Refrain from lifting your upper back off the mat (crunches). Keep your upper body down, and if that’s not enough leave your feet on the floor as well.
- If you’re using weights, go light!
3. Last but not least, remember to breathe. Deep breathing, as practiced in Pilates helps to relieve tension in your sore spots. As your breathing, think about relaxing your shoulders, your jaw, your lower back. I promise, it makes a massive difference!
With that, you have all of our tips on how to reduce neck pain both in everyday life and in exercise. Remember to listen to your body, and look after it!