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Can Pilates help my headache?

What kind of headaches are there and can Pilates help ?

Headaches have many different causes and different symptoms. There are two main categories of headache identified by doctors, Primary and Secondary headaches. What are called primary headaches can be very debilitating and distressing but are not a serious health threat. Secondary headaches can be an indicator of a serious health condition.

What is a Primary headache ?

These headaches include migraines, tension headaches, headaches caused by sinus infections, hangovers, lack of sleep, dehydration, tight or weak neck muscles and or tight / weak upper back and shoulder muscles, other musculoskeletal issues of the upper body 

What is a Secondary headache ?

Secondary headaches are considered very serious and an indication of an underlying health issue. These are identified by us experiencing a new type of headache, or headaches increasing in severity and also headaches with other symptoms like limb weakness. These types of secondary headache all need to be investigated by a medical practitioner.

Can Pilates reduce primary headaches' pain and frequency ?

Yes, Pilates can help reduce the symptoms of some primary headaches. Pilates can also reduce some of the underlying causes of primary headaches. Tension in the head, neck and upper back muscles often contribute to primary headaches. Pilates can help here by encouraging release and relaxation of muscles that are habitually carrying too much tension. The severity of primary headaches will often reduce when tension is reduced.

​Can Pilates work on Posture help headaches ?

Pilates teaches correct head, neck and shoulder placement. So,Pilates helps by bringing the upper body into the gravity line and into good alignment. Correct alignment reduces load bearing on the neck and shoulders, the head is a heavy object to hold on the slender column of the neck. 

​Pilates for intrinsic upper body strength

Another aspect to consider is strength. Often the upper back and neck muscles are weak contributing again to poor posture and poor movement habits. This can be because of accidents, like whiplash, degeneration of vertebral discs, under use or wrong use of the area or simply poor posture caused by computer work or phone use.  Pilates is really good at strengthening the upper back muscles. 

Is back extension good for reducing headaches ?

Pilates Swan and other back extension exercises in Pilates encourage a healthy range of movement and improve the quality of movement in the thoracic and cervical spine. Placement of the head and shoulders is also taught through Pilates Swan and other exercises on the Pilates Reformer and studio equipment in ways that we can easily translate to our every day lives. Improved placement, improved mechanics and improved support for the neck and head through stronger extensor muscles can all help the project to reduce headaches.

Pilates Breath and Tension release.

The breathing patterns used in Pilates, together with learning more body awareness can help to identify patterns of tension. The tension patterns we have in the upper body are often a contributor to primary headaches. We habitually use tension in the neck, face, and upper shoulder area when we are trying to achieve something. The strain can be both mental and/or physical. Pilates teaches us to use our core strength and the correct muscles for each action instead. We also learn to reduce unnecessary tension in other areas. We first need to identify our unconscious habits of tension, with the help of our Pilates teacher and then work together to change them for the better.

The Pilates Reformer and Pilates studio Equipment

The Pilates Reformer and other studio equipment provides a supportive environment to strengthen the upper body. Weak, injured, tense or misaligned areas can be kept safe while being conditioned, strengthened, released, and realigned. Increasing levels of challenge from the very basic to the advanced can be gradually introduced. Bracing the body because it has been injured previously or does not feel “right” can be changed with the special supportive environment of the Pilates Reformer and other studio equipment. Pilates can definitely be a useful strategy in reducing some of the symptoms and underlying causes of primary headaches.


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