Neck and shoulder injuries are nothing to mess around with, but they don't have to keep you from working out. In fact, some carefully controlled movements, such as these Pilates exercises for shoulder pain and neck injuries, may even help by strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles. Overdoing it can make things worse, so it's important that you keep your movements fairly small and very controlled. The following instructions will guide you through the exercises, while the accompanying video provides a helpful visual and some additional tips.
A good exercise to start with is the Scapula Isolation. It involves a fairly small range of motion and works only the tiny muscles in the middle of the back. This exercise is performed lying on your back, with your legs bent at the knees, and feet resting about hip-distance apart.
- Reach your hands straight up toward the ceiling, palms facing in.
- Keeping your head down, inhale and reach your shoulders off the mat, stretching up.
- Exhale as you pull your shoulders back down to the mat and repeat.
Another Pilates exercise for neck and shoulder injuries is informally referred to as The Head Nod. This exercise promotes neck stability. It's performed in the same position as the previous exercise, but with your hands resting at your sides.
- Start by tucking your chin in toward your chest.
- Then, slowly lift your head off the mat, keeping your chin tucked. Keep your head on the floor for as long as possible on the chin tuck, allowing this to naturally lead into the neck lift.
- Untuck your chin, lower your head back down to the mat and repeat.
The next in this series of exercises is another set of scapula exercises, but performed from another angle. This exercise puts slightly more pressure on the shoulders, increasing the intensity slightly. If you're coming back from a shoulder injury, you'll want to gradually work up to this Pilates exercise, which is performed on all fours.
- Keeping the back of the neck long and even, push your shoulder blades up so that you feel a stretch through your back. Keep your hands pushed into the mat and your abdominal muscles pulled in to keep the focus on your upper body.
- Retract your shoulders as you return to your starting position.
After repeating this set of scapula exercises several times, lie down flat on your stomach and put your hands under your forehead. This next exercise works the muscles in the back of the neck.
- Lift your head off the mat as you exhale, keeping your chin tucked in somewhat. (Think of giving yourself a double chin.)
- Inhale as you lower down and relax, returning your forehead to your hands.
Repeat several times, remembering to keep it small. Even if you can't feel much, those little muscles in the back of your neck are working hard.
If you're coming back from a neck or should injury, these Pilates exercises are a good place to start, but stick with a range of motion that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more dynamic exercises.