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Understanding neck alignment and posture

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

I believe it’s important to look ahead, in the right direction, and with good neck alignment!

Neck pain has become a common issue in our everyday lives whether it is from stress, tension, prolonged posture, minor falls and/or injuries. Pilates is a brilliant form of exercise to train functional, good posture, breathing and muscle elongation.

When working with the cervical spine, we must consider the upper thoracic region, clavicle, and scapula because of the muscular and fascia relationship. We cannot ignore the rest of the spine and the ripple effects it has on the body in all planes and directions. When addressing the neck, we need to look at the whole spine which is a column of bones, called vertebrae, that extend from the bottom of your skull to your pelvis. There are 7 cervical vertebrae, and

12 thoracic vertebrae with many muscles that support neck mobility and stability. The natural curves of the spine also allow for shock absorption for the body. It is thus advised to strive for ideal posture to develop the musculature to support this alignment. Good alignment of the spine helps the efficient functioning of the internal organs of the body. Deviations of posture will over time lead to malfunctioning of the inner organs. The spine provides stability and support for the upper body as well as it affects the lower body. In general, most Pilates exercises target scapular and shoulder stabilisation and mobility, this will help with cervical stabilisation.

When your spine is aligned properly, your body maintains a relatively straight line. We refer to this as the plumb line. This side view (the sagittal plane) indicated the “ideal alignment” for good movement. It starts at the lobe of the ear, goes through the bodies of the cervical vertebra, the shoulder joint, midway through the trunk, through the greater trochanter of the femur, slightly anteria/in front of the midline of the knee and the lateral malleolus. From the front and the back of a person, symmetry is evident. This can be observed by the bony landmarks such as the head, shoulders, the space between the arms and the trunk, the pelvis, knees and the feet.

Having good posture goes beyond maintaining “perfect alignment”, it can also help prevent long-term pain and discomfort. Today, it is common for people to have “text neck” where the neck is in front of the body causing all sorts of misalignments through the body. Misalignment may impair your range of motion, and severe issues can affect your quality of life. There may be signs that your spine is misaligned, along with pain around several joints in the body. Pilates exercises and stretches the spine allowing for daily tasks to be carried out pain-free and functionally. In some cases, severe misalignment may require medical treatment.

The spine does more than stabilise your back. Any sort of misalignment can affect other parts of the body, too. Possible signs that your spine is out of alignment to include chronic headaches, lower back/neck/knee/hip pain, illness, excessive fatigue, and numbness/tingling in the hands or feet. The risk factors of neck and spine misalignment can include chronic pain, joint, stiffness, bad posture, lack of range of motion, discomfort, breaking bones, breathing issues, and sciatica.

Treating the neck always starts with our first BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates Principle: awareness. From there, we can treat the posture and pains. Pilates teachers good alignment, more support in a spine and more economical muscular activity. When the spine is aligned with gravity it works in harmony.

Even if one is not getting neck pain, over time, bad alignment can cause pain. Pilates develops better symmetrical musculature to support ideal alignment. While addressing the whole mind and body, Pilates allows for functional movement, and better functioning inner organs.

Join Pilates to avoid forming bad movement patterns and ending up with neck pains.


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