The topic of neck and back pain has become as popular as weight woes and wrinkles, and we often find ourselves engrossed in a conversation about the latest pillow, masseur, physiotherapist, doctor, MRI machine or office chair in the hope of finally putting an end to the misery.
Not so long ago, youth would hear their elders talking about their ailments, all the while never imagining that one day soon, old and young would be in the same boat thanks to the sedentary lifestyles we’ve adopted.
More often than not, so much time and money are wasted trying to soothe neck tension and backache when the answer may well lie in our posture. Sitting upright is not enough. Fundamental misalignments in our structures are the culprit.
“In my experience, at least 90 per cent of patients I see with neck and shoulder pain and pain in the lumbar spine have a postural problem,” says Pierdanilo Sanna, a specialist orthopaedic surgeon at the Exeter Medical Center in Dubai.
“Pain is the result of years of our bodies trying to compensate underuse in one area by overusing another,” says Sanna, an Italian, who completed his training at the University of Milan.
“Shoulder pain, which is often related to neck pain, can be caused by a simple corn in the foot. In other words, changes in weight distribution can cause repercussions all the way up the body and this can cause a progressive imbalance that eventually manifests itself as pain in the area that works the hardest to compensate for this imbalance.”
Where physiotherapists are tasked with treating pathological issues, there can be a tendency to focus solely on the area where patients feel pain, sometimes failing to look at the origin, says Sanna.
“Unfortunately, modern forms of postural rehabilitation and therapy, such as Global Postural Reeducation (GPR), have still not made it to the UAE. Such programmes go to the root cause and tailor-make therapy sessions on a case-by-case basis.
“Non-conventional techniques, such as Pilates, meanwhile, are widely credited by medical institutions abroad as an effective non-conventional method whose principles are aligned with medical research.”
Patients intrigued by the possibilities of Pilates should take a look at a new studio in Dubai offering a full array of equipment.
Cloe Sommadossi, owner of Pilates Academy, a local affiliate of Pilates Academy International New York, is a master trainer skilled at harmonising muscle groups and restoring postural alignment.
“Pilates studios tend to offer mat work and reformer classes,” says Sommadossi. “Most do not offer the equipment devised by Joseph Pilates, including the Cadillac, barrel and chair.”
The Cadillac, named after the car to reflect its multifaceted dimensions, has every nook and cranny to align the body, including leg springs, push-through bars and fuzzy nooses to hang from, which are comfortable and allow even bedridden patients to exercise by using one set of muscle groups at a time.
“We focus primarily on quality of movement. We have a maximum of three clients on the equipment at any given time and five in group classes so that we are able to correct everyone attending the class. In my experience, there is a fundamental difference between giving a class and teaching by correcting and customising workouts for ailments.”
Pilates is based on the biomechanical and anatomical principles of the human body and is increasingly being recommended by doctors in the western world as an alternative to conventional forms of physiotherapy and drugs.
“We don’t aspire to belong to the fitness industry, but rather, are more oriented towards the medical field and towards sustaining a discipline that can make a long-term difference to quality of life,” says Sommadossi, who spent many years liaising with clinics in Italy.
“In Pilates, we do not accept clients with pathological issues, but postural issues. Physical therapists often have their eye on a single joint, whereas our approach is more holistic. Some hospitals in Europe even have their own Pilates studios.”
Pilates Academy is the first studio in the Middle East to offer Cardiolates. Taught on small trampolines, the technique uses the Pilates principles at an aerobic pace to combine cardiovascular work with flexibility.