ACTIVCORE® cured my neck and shoulder pain

ActivCoreFEX 007When we first started doing ActivCore ® , we couldn’t wait to try every exercise that we could get my hands on.  As dancers, we’re also always first enticed by the exercises for the legs and the core… the upper body exercises have always been a secondary focus.  However, as we began the training and learned more about ActivCore’s amazing ability to get the right muscle to fire in the right amount at the right time, we started wondering if there was any hope for the nagging neck and shoulder pain that we had been silently suffering with off and on for years.  Katherine had lost hope that anything would make her pain go away.  It had actually become so bad that I couldn’t finish the last sip in a tall glass of water without being forced to support the weight of my head in my free hand!!

To our amazement, the secret recipe for completely “fixing” shoulder and neck pain was ActivCore ® … particularly the pull ups and the push ups.  Who knew?!  The first time we tried the pull ups (not being able to do a single pull up on my own), we knew we were using our legs more than our arms, but we LOVED the way it opened my shoulders and how we were so connected through our backs.  Because ActivCore ® allows you to set the difficulty appropriate to your own personal strength level, you really can’t go wrong.  We have all our clients doing their own personal pull ups with the ActivCore Activation Station ® because of its incredible adjustability.

With the push ups, because the ropes are unstable every direction except straight down, we were total wrecks…. both of us on the left side  (for different reasons, we promise!!!  We’re not clones!!!)  Neither of us could really complete one push up without our left arms freaking out and shaking like gangbusters.  We couldn’t keep the rope still!!  ….And that’s when it hit us.  None of the local stabilizers in the left shoulder were firing.  It was like they were on vacation on another planet.  The solution?  Find the setting on the ActivCore Activation Station n® that would allow us to complete four push ups without collapsing or shaking uncontrollably.  Then I repeated three more sets of four, adjusting the height of the ropes or where I was standing so that I could alter the level of support.

In the first week, we probably did the pull up and push up sequence 2 times….. that’s a total of about 32 pull ups and push ups, and both our shoulders and necks felt better after that one week, not to mention that we felt like our posture improved immensely.  (…And we’re not the only ones who’ve said this!  One of our best friends and workout buddies said to us the day after doing one set of pull ups:  “Could it really be possible that my posture is better after only one session????”  The answer:  yes!)

Pull Ups 003Now, we’re completely addicted to the pull ups and push ups!!  Katherine’s neck pain is gone, and I no longer have to hold the back of my head when I’m enjoying my last sip of my favorite beverage.  Kimberly’s rotator cuff pain is gone, too!  We make both push ups and pull ups a mandatory part of our ActivCore ® workout sessions, and as a result we have happier necks and shoulders!!

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June 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Alleviate Neck Pain and Tension with Pilates

If you have chronic neck pain and tension, did you know that Pilates can help?  For those of you  who have tried Pilates and felt more neck pain after the class than you did before the class….read on!!

Pilates exercises can do wonders to alleviate your chronic pain, but you need to learn what to do and what NOT to do to make your Pilates practice neck-friendly for your neck. If you can, ideally, you’ll run run to your nearest fully equipped Pilates studio to benefit from the myriad of exercises that will help strengthen the core, the abdominal muscles and the muscles around the shoulder girdle to make that neck tension and pain a thing of the past.  But if you’re at home doing mat work — especially mat work with Pilates videos or Pilates podcasts — then you need to pay attention to the next bit of advice!

1.  Listen to your neck!  If your neck hurts during ab exercises, particularly those which require you to lift your head and shoulders off the mat, then you should rest your head as necessary.  Sure, the stronger your abs are, the more relief you’ll feel because the higher you can curl your shoulders off the mat, the more the shoulders support the weight of the head.  When you can’t curl up to the base of the scapula, then the head ends up behind the shoulders supported only by the neck muscles — kind of like a stick holding a 10 to 15 lb ball on one end.  Your neck muscles will strengthen (as will your abdominal muscles, of course) so to protect your neck while building strength, try propping up your head so that you don’t have as far to go when you lift your head off the mat.  During Hundreds or any other exercise that requires more endurance, rest your head as necessary.  For inverted or rolling exercises, be careful to keep the weight between the scapula so that the body’s weight is absorbed by the shoulders and does not affect the neck.  And don’t exacerbate neck tension or pain by turning your head to watch the video — especially in inversions!  Watch the video first so that you can implement the cues without turning your head.

2.  Strengthen your shoulder girdle.  Why the shoulder girdle, you ask?  Well, in the shoulder region there is a very large bundle of nerves known as the brachial plexus.  If poor biomechanics cause any one of these to be impinged, then neck and shoulder pain could result.  Or you could have a rotator cuff impingement causing the pain, or damage to any of the number of muscles, tendons and ligaments around the shoulder and the neck.  Or your sleeping position could be the root cause of it all!  Our shoulder joint is fabulous in that it allows for a wide range of motion, but this makes for a very large margin for error.  Improper biomechanics over time can wreak havoc on the shoulder and the neck, causing pain.  …And why does the core need strengthening if it’s the neck and shoulder that seems to be the problem?

3.  Strengthen your core!  Well, that is why you want to do Pilates, right?  Lack of core strength can lead to postural problems, specifically a rounded back and a forward head.  This posture in particular creates a significant imbalance in the muscles of the shoulder and neck.  In a Pilates studio, care can be given to retraining proper biomechanics while strengthening the core.  Specifically, Pilates exercises on the Cadillac and Pilates exercises on the Reformer can both strengthen the stabilizing muscles and restore the necessary length to diminish activation of any muscles that are tight and overworking.  If you’re doing Pilates at home, pay attention to all the starting positions for the exercises, especially seated exercises such as Spine Twist and Spine Stretch Forward.  These exercises provide you the opportunity to reinforce proper alignment that you can (hopefully!) carry with you throughout your day.  If you regularly visit a Pilates studio, ask your instructor to give some at-home Pilates exercises to do so that you don’t derail what you’ve learned.

4.  Know when to stop and know when to seek medical attention!  If you consider yourself a very body aware individual, then you probably know the difference between muscle pain that is “fatigue” and muscle pain that is “strain”.  No one can make this judgment call but you, so you need to rest and stop an exercise if you feel the pain is harmful.  There is no “rule” regarding when to seek medical attention as everyone’s tolerance for pain and estimation of pain is different.  But neck pain and tension severely impacts quality of life – so if you have been “tolerating” your neck pain for a while now, you should consider getting it checked out.  Also, some individuals should NOT be performing inverted exercises such as Roll Over or Jack Knife, so it may be best to avoid these if they cause discomfort until you have your specific condition evaluated.

So, don’t let neck and shoulder pain keep you from your favorite Pilates class!  Take the time to learn what you should not do, but more importantly to learn what you should do so that you can be pain-free in no time.  For some easy, accessible Pilates exercises just for the shoulder girdle, visit www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com (launching October 15!) and find the Pink Ribbon Pilates workouts, or click here for a great article with some accompanying exercises.

October 13, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Pilates Posts. 1 comment.