If you’re working with clients with chronic neck pain, let them know that a consistent mat-based Pilates program may offer hope of pain relief and improved functionality. The incidence of chronic neck pain is on the rise, especially among older women. Currently, clinicians lack general consensus on what type of exercise program manages this condition most effectively.
To evaluate whether a mat Pilates program would provide relief, researchers from the University College Dublin recruited 12 women and one man, aged 37-59 years, each with neck pain lasting 3 months or longer.
Investigators assessed participants for pain levels and functional disability before the study, after the 6-week class intervention and after 12 weeks. In this uncontrolled study, all subjects participated in a 6-week mat-based Pilates class offered once a week for 1 hour. Researchers recommended self-practice for 20 minutes three times a week.
Lead study author Germaine Mallin, MSc, chartered physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at Southside Physiotherapy Clinic in Dublin, said to IDEA Fitness Journal, “The Pilates program used in this study was very general, and the exercises were not specific to the neck only. Exercises used were from the beginner Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute program.”
Data analysis showed that functional ability had significantly improved after 6 weeks and both pain levels and functional ability were significantly better after 12 weeks.
Study authors concluded that this research offers preliminary evidence of the long-term effectiveness of Pilates practice for improving pain and disability in people with chronic neck pain. “This study has shown that low-level exercises that focus more on technique rather than strength can be extremely effective when it comes to chronic neck pain,” said Mallin.
The pilot study was published in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2013: 17, 376-84). More research is warranted, including a controlled study with a larger number of patients with higher baseline disability levels.