Neck Pain during Pilates Exercises? This Will Help Question of the Week

with No Comments

question_mark

Many people experience some neck pain during Pilates, especially those newer to the practice.  In my classes I’m asked regularly about how to prevent or eliminate this unpleasant tension in the neck and shoulder area.

Weak neck muscles can definitely contribute to neck pain. But so can weak abdominals.

Here’s a look at some of the factors contributing to neck stiffness or pain and how you can correct the problem.

The head nod

Several exercises in the classic Pilates repertoire require us to lift our head and shoulders while lying on our backs — for example, Upper Abdominal Curl, 100s and Double Leg Stretch. If our alignment is off, this effort can cause a lot of painful tension as the skull and neck bones are unsupported.

neck pain
Many people experience some neck pain during Pilates

The Head Nod, a Pilates fundamental exercise, is the beginning phase of our favourite exercises. This easy warm up will stretch and strengthen your neck muscles pre-Pilates; use it as the first movement of lifting your head and shoulders off the mat.

  1. Lie face-up on your mat, in neutral spine, knees bent and feet on the floor, hip distance apart.
  2. Inhale to lengthen the back of your neck, drawing your chin toward your chest. Don’t force it down; it should feel like a slow-motion nod “yes”.
  3. Exhale to release your head back to neutral.

If our trunk muscles are weak and can’t stabilize our torso, our neck muscles tend to bunch up to compensate.

A weak core contributes to neck pain

Weak neck muscles can definitely contribute to neck pain. But so can weak abdominals.

Here’s why. When we are in the lifted Upper Ab Curl position, our core muscles must lift our head, neck and scapulae off the floor and hold it all there. If our trunk muscles are weak and can’t stabilize our torso, our neck muscles tend to bunch up to compensate.

Make sure that your core muscles are engaged properly before you lift your head and shoulders, and keep your awareness on using them throughout the exercise. Begin with Head Nod, then contract your abdominals to slide your ribcage toward your pelvis. Keep your core engaged even as you lower your head and shoulders.

Tips and tricks to try

  • When you feel neck pain, stop the exercise, put your head down and re-engage your core. Try again, using the strength of the core to lift or stabilize you. Don’t just keep working through neck pain – your core probably isn’t doing the work any longer.
  • Keep a small fist-sized space between your chin and chest when your head is lifted. Imagine holding a small ripe peach under your chin: don’t squeeze it, just hold it there gently.
  • Modify the exercise. For example, keep your feet on the floor with knees bent for 100s, or support your head with your hands in the Abs Series.
  • Practice with awareness of the head and neck area and learn to consciously release tension as it occurs. This will take time, but the results – being able to really feel the deep burn in 100s before your neck gives out – are worth the effort.
Neck Pain during Pilates Exercises? This Will Help Question of the Week" >

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.