I often get asked how did you get into Pilates?

I injured my neck in a minor car accident and life as I knew it changed.  I went from being a full-time certified hand therapist at UCD Medical Center to start a career in movement.  After years of trying various strengthening programs with health care professionals, I was introduced to Pilates.  It was the first time I met my latissimus dorsi – I had worked with my patients to strengthen this muscle but it was only with my embodiment of the “lats” that I began to experience hope.

Fast forward 17 years.  Do I still have neck pain?  Occasionally.  Then the big question becomes how do I deal with this and how can movement help too?  There are many ways.  Here are some guidelines to help take the pain out of neck pain!


If you are doing an exercise and it hurts or you feel a strain, it’s probably a good idea to stop.  Your trainer should have ways to modify most exercises to support your comfort.  If there are no modifications that work for you- skip the exercise for now.


Where there is breath there is life.

Inhaling to the back of the ribcage is a powerful tool.  We are often engaged in the front of our bodies because our daily activities require this – like washing dishes, being on the computer, texting, or presenting to the public.  Creating an awareness of the back body will support the front body.  Creating mobility in the midback will improve pain in the more mobile neck and head. Wouldn’t it be better to support a 10-pound head with the ribcage instead of the neck?

On the exhale, I like to have my clients use the HAaaaa sound, to emphasize an open throat, and to relax the jaw.  More importantly, this type of breath, as opposed to a pursed-lip exhalation, will allow accessing the deepest abdominals.  It will also keep the neck muscles from being active.  TRY IT.


The head weighs about 10 pounds.   Every inch the head moves forward of the spine (out of alignment from the ears) we increase 10 pounds on the cervical spine. OUCH!  There are some very important nerves, blood vessels, and organs in the cervical area.  Guess what?  Those will be yanked, stretched, tighten and create pain.  So, start creating awareness to the back of the head and release your neck tension.


How many times have you heard “pull down your shoulders”, “don’t wear your shoulders as earrings” in your Pilates classes?  I agree the shoulders do need to be kept away from the head.  By having the shoulders up you are shortening the neck and shoulder muscles and aggravating the neck.  I suggest you soften the shoulders and let them glide down your back until they are settled on your ribcage.


The ability to create a stable force at the pelvis is paramount in allowing the spine and ultimately the neck to stay soft.  An activated pelvic floor will support a domino effect of the body:  the ribs can move away from the pelvis, the neck is able to move away from the ribs and finally, the head can move away from the neck.

I hope after reading some of these tips we have ease the stigma about pilates create a sore neck. Feel free to pass this link onto a friend!


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