Study: Pilates Helps Relieve Neck Pain

People with a history of neck pain found significant relief after a six-week Pilates program, according to a small study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Perhaps most significantly, the participants reported less pain six weeks after their last official Pilates session, suggesting that the exercise program had induced subtle changes in movement patterns that had long-lasting benefits.

Twelve women and one man participated in the study. They had moderate but recurrent neck pain, which had been with them for at least six weeks, or for at least one week per month for four months.

For the study, they did one 1-hour Pilates class a week for six weeks, and were advised to do three 20-minute sessions each week on their own. The Pilates class featured 10-15 beginner-level mat exercises, plus a warm-up and cooldown.

After the six-week Pilates program, the participants had less disability and greater function in their neck than at the beginning of the study. At that time, they rated their pain the same, despite the improvements in function. Once the classes were over, the participants were encouraged to stick with their three-times-a-week home program.

Six weeks after the final class, however, they rated their pain as less severe, and their functioning remained higher. “With continued practice subjects may have progressed to the automatic stage of learning a motor skill where movements become more subconscious,” the researchers wrote.


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