Do you get neck pain from exercise? There is nothing more frustrating than doing your workout and then having a sore neck for a few days afterwards.

The worst things about getting a sore neck after exercise is it means that your neck is probably compensating for your core muscles. This means they didn’t work as well as they could have. Also having a sore neck means that your neck was out of alignment when it was working so it isn’t getting stronger either. It’s just getting tighter.

See what I mean? Frustrating right! If getting a sore neck after exercise is normal for you, you might not believe that it is possible to work really hard without getting a sore neck. I used to think that because I often used to get a sore neck after any exercise. I know what it feels like!

It wasn’t until I went through my Pilates teacher training that I learnt proper technique to align my neck. It was a revelation to me! And now I know that it is completely unnecessary to get neck pain from exercise I make sure my clients know how to work hard and look after their neck at the same time.

How to reduce neck pain from exercise:

1. Self Assess:

What is your posture like? Take a photo of your self from the side standing in a relaxed position. Does your ear line up with your shoulder or is it more forward? Do you have forward head posture that looks anything like the image below? I love this image because it demonstrates the additional weight the upper back has to carry the further forward the head is.

Neck pain and Pilates
Neck pain and posture

2 Chin tuck – long neck

If you have regular neck pain after exercise it is likely you have some forward head posture going on. You can see from the image above that the further forward your head the harder the front of the neck has to work to support your head. The true job of the muscles at the front of the neck (cervical flexors) is to contract to tuck the chin and lengthen the back of the neck.

To practice a good chin tuck, lay down on the floor with you knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor. Place a small towel roll under the curve in the back of your neck, this is simply to support your neck to rest with it’s natural curve, do not prop the head up to tuck the chin. Ensure the back of your head is still on the floor. Then proceed to tuck the chin down toward the chest, leaving the back of the head on the floor, lengthening the back of the neck as much as possible. Practice this twice a day for at least 1 minute.

3 Neck and head hover

Once you are comfortable with the chin tuck you can progress to the head hover. This progression is to continue to find the deep chin tuck and then hover the back of the head off the floor ONLY 1 CM! This is hover not a chest lift, and the low hover is designed to strengthen the deep neck flexors at the front of the neck. So if you lift too high you will miss them altogether. See this video for more information. Add these head hovers to your twice daily practice of your chin tucks.

These exercises begin to teach the bones in your neck to re-align themselves so the right muscles can start working. If you are practicing twice daily you will start to feel improved alignment in other positions like sitting and standing. Allow your chin to tuck more and lengthen through the back of your neck.

Then you can bring this awareness in as you exercise. If you do you chest lifts and sit ups you can start with the chin tuck and head hover. Make sure you pass through these positions on your way to the chest lift to get your neck aligned and the right muscles switched on. If you are playing golf or lifting small children from the floor, bring in the chin tuck to align your neck. If you are surfing tuck your chin whilst lengthening the back of your neck, see if you can lift your head with the front of the neck rather than the back.

There are so many ways to learn and apply great alignment! Get in touch for more ideas.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Neck pain from exercise? Never again!

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