Sarah Manners attending The Crime Thriller Awards for The Bill

Pilates exercises to help with your shoulder and neck pain – they work wonders for me!

This blog is in response to one of my subscribers regarding neck pain when planking or taking her arms over head. Her doctor has already ruled out shoulder impingement and other common shoulder issues, and she’s been told to focus on scapular stabilisation and strength, and she wants to know how.

Well… You’ve come to the right place, Mrs X!

If you don’t already know, I have different length legs, and as a result, I tuck my pelvis under and flatten my lower back. This causes my head to jut forward, my shoulders to round, and my shoulder blades to stick out. Years of being in this unnatural position before the discrepancy was diagnosed led to the muscles that hold the shoulder blades flat to my back, rhomboids, to become long and weak.

In this picture of me at The Crime Thriller Awards when I was in ITV’s The Bill, you can see my shoulder blade winging.

The associated neck and shoulder pain I suffered was exacerbated by years of body pump classes (the problem with pump classes) where I was lifting my weights with poor posture and feeling it in my neck and upper traps, for days after each session. It wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor that I realised the full importance of posture for scapular stability and pain reduction. Because if you aren’t in good alignment before you do weight baring exercises, or anything really, you’re going to cause undue muscular tension and stress.

So…. Back to your question.

To build mid and upper back strength, and shoulder stability, concentrate on spine extension and shoulder retraction exercises, such as Dart shown below here in a screen grab from my app. The shoulders should be down away from your ears whilst you concentrate on gently squeezing the shoulder blades together to strengthen your rhomboids. Knee hovering, and short ¾ planks will also help strengthen the shoulder girdle. Remember to focus on keeping the shoulders down and the shoulder blades flat to the back, with your navel gently drawn in and up.


My app has a focus dedicated to posture which works the aforementioned areas. And as always, just like Mrs X, if you have any questions, I’d be really happy to hear from you. You can reach out to me on hello@pilatesontap.co.uk or via the socials below.

So, grab your grip socks, and until next month…

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