Are you struggling with neck pain while working out? Check out these tips to help you avoid pain and discomfort.
Working out is a great way to ease stress and stay healthy. However, some people find it difficult to withstand the strain of exercising their neck and back muscles. Even simple exercises like craning your neck backward or tilting your head sideways can cause pain in the neck. This is because these movements put a lot of pressure on the delicate nerves and vertebrae in the back of your neck.
When you work out, your muscles are put under stress to perform the tasks. In order for them to recover quickly and get back on track, they need a lot of care and attention. Working out also comes with some risks of injury. While most people ignore it, neck pain is something that can be triggered by working out if not done in an appropriate way.
If you’re working out and starting to feel any pain or discomfort in your neck, then you should stop immediately and consult a doctor before continuing.
Working out affects the body in multiple ways but the risk of getting injured or triggering neck pain increases when you don’t take the right precautions beforehand. This article will tell you how you can avoid neck pain while working out so that you have a safe and healthy workout regime from now onwards. Keep on reading to know some tips that will help you avoid neck pain while working out.
Can Exercise Cause Neck Pain?
Exercise is great for your overall health. Exercising can cause neck pain. Neck pain during a workout could be due to the wrong posture, especially if you’re participating in a sport that requires you to keep your neck in a bent position for long periods of time. The most common sports that can trigger an injury to the neck are tennis, badminton, golf, swimming, gymnastics, and weightlifting.
Exercising while having an injury in the neck or having a weak neck can also cause pain. While an injury heals, it is best to avoid working out until you’ve recovered. Avoiding neck pain during workouts is possible when you take the above points into consideration. And when you’re in pain, it’s important to recognize that and avoid any activities that put your neck under stress until you’ve recovered.
If you have neglected your neck and back muscles for a long time, you might initially experience pain as you start working them out. This is because your muscles might be weak and therefore more susceptible to injury. If you have a stiff or weak neck, exercising may be a bad idea since the movements could push it beyond its limits. This could lead to a painful condition called “cervicogenic headaches”, which feels like a migraine in the back of the head and neck. Read more about "Can neck strain cause headaches?".
Worse, if your neck pain is due to a pre-existing medical condition like osteoarthritis, it could get worse as you exercise. This is because exercising your neck can put more pressure on it, which may cause the pain to intensify.
Why Do People Have Neck Pain When Exercising?
When we exercise our muscles, they require more blood and oxygen. This is delivered through the arteries that run through the back of our neck. However, if you don't move your neck enough during your daily activities, the arteries get stiff and narrowed. This means that when you begin exercising, there may not be enough room for extra blood and oxygen. This excessive pressure on your arteries could lead to pain in your neck muscles.
Another possible cause of neck pain when exercising is muscle imbalance. Our bodies have different sets of muscles, which work in groups and should be balanced. However, if there is an imbalance between the muscles, one set of muscles may tighten up and restrict the movement of other muscles. This increases the risk of pain and injury.
It is important to understand that not all the pain you feel during a workout is caused by a specific injury. Some discomfort is to be expected during a workout and should be a sign of your muscles recovering and growing stronger. However, if you feel the pain that doesn’t go away after a couple of days, then you may have an injury or some underlying issues. There are multiple causes of neck pain when exercising, it could be due to a weak core, incorrect posture, using the wrong equipment or technique, overtraining, poor diet, or an injury.
How Can You Protect Your Neck While Exercising?
There are certain ways by which you can protect your neck while exercising.
1. Warm up before you start exercising. A warm-up helps your blood vessels expand and receives more blood, which could ease the pressure on your arteries. You could start with some light aerobic exercises, followed by some neck and back stretches. This will allow your muscles to relax and loosen up before you jump into heavier exercises.
2. Prop your neck up on a pillow or cushion while you exercise. This will help you avoid craning your neck backward or tilting it sideways. It will also reduce the pressure on your arteries and allow them to flow freely.
3. Avoid heavy lifting while exercising. Exercising your back muscles is fine, but avoid lifting weights that are heavier than you can handle. This is because lifting too much weight can put a strain on your back and neck muscles.
4. Keep your head still while exercising. While your body is in motion, keep your head still and upright so there is less pressure on your neck. If you need to look up or down, try to do so slowly instead of craning your neck.
5. Stay hydrated. While exercising, your muscles and brain require a lot of water to stay hydrated. If you aren’t hydrated enough, then your cells can’t function properly which can lead to pain.
6. Stay calm. Stress causes your body to release cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that causes muscle tension, which in turn can lead to pain.
7. Change your posture. Sitting with a slumped back and neck bent forwards is a major cause of neck pain. Changing your posture can help you avoid pain in your neck.
8. Change your routine. If you’ve been exercising regularly for a while and still feel a lot of pain, then it may be time to change your routine.
9. Don’t exercise through pain. While it is good to push yourself, doing so through pain is not recommended. You should avoid exercising through pain by taking a break and consulting a doctor.
How to Avoid Neck Pain While Working Out?
Exercising without the right precautions can lead to many injuries. While neck pain is not a common injury, you should still be careful to avoid triggering the pain. There are certain ways you can protect your neck while working out.
1. Avoid extreme neck and back movements. While exercising your neck and back, avoid sudden jerks or movements that require you to twist your neck sideways. This will help prevent you from overstretching your muscles and causing pain in the neck.
2. Use the right tool for the job. For example, choose a chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your spine straight while you work.
3. Work out with a partner. Exercising with a partner can be a great way to make sure that you are keeping your neck and back muscles safe during exercises. Your partner can also help you modify your exercises as needed to avoid overextending yourself.
4. Get your blood flowing. When you start to feel stiff or sore, exercise helps to loosen you up and get your blood flowing again. Exercises like yoga or tai chi are great for this as they focus on keeping your spine and neck straight while moving other parts of your body.
Consult Your Doctor First
If you’ve been working out regularly and notice a new pain in your neck, then it may be a sign of an injury. While you may think you could just rest for a while and continue as before, it isn’t recommended. Exercising with pain can make your injury worse, cause long-term damage, and affect your posture.
You should take a break from exercising and consult your doctor about your injury. Your doctor can assess your injury and may recommend you take further steps to make sure you are recovering properly.
How to Relieve Neck Pain From Working Out?
If you’ve been exercising regularly and have noticed increased pain in your neck, then you may have an injury. While it’s important to continue exercising, you should do so while taking the right precautions. You can ease the pain in your neck by:
1. Massage your neck. Studies have shown that massaging your neck muscles can help ease the pain. You can do so by gently rubbing your hands on the muscles around your neck. Learn more about the best way to massage your neck.
2. Drink water. While exercising, your muscles and brain require a lot of water to stay hydrated. If you aren’t hydrated enough, then your muscles can’t function properly which can lead to pain.
3. Give your neck a break. You should work out your neck and back muscles two to three times a week. You should also give them two days to recover before your next round of workouts. Working out every day might cause your muscles to become stiffer and more prone to injury.
4. Add more strengthening exercises. If you have been exercising but still experience pain in your neck, consider adding some strengthening exercises. Exercises like lifting weights, push-ups, or planks are great for strengthening your back and neck muscles.
5. Take a break from yoga. Although yoga is great for your overall health, it is not a good idea for people who experience neck pain while exercising. This is because yoga involves a lot of twists and bends that can put pressure on your neck muscles.
6. Eat healthy foods. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein can help you recover faster from workouts and protect your muscles.
7. Add a neck pillow to your daily life. You can add a neck pillow to your daily life, even when you are not exercising. This will help you maintain the right posture while you work and rest, which can protect your neck from pain.
Exercises to Avoid With Neck Pain
Working out with a neck or back injury is important for recovery, but you should avoid certain exercises. The following exercises must be avoided if you have a neck injury:
- Lifting Weights - While lifting weights can be great for losing weight and toning your body, it can put a lot of stress on your neck. If you have an injury in your neck, lifting weights can make the pain worse. Avoid lifting weights until your injury has healed.
- High-Impact Exercises - Exercises that involve a high level of impact may also need to be avoided if you have a neck injury. Examples of high-impact exercises include running and soccer.
Avoid crunches, planks, and sit-ups while you have neck pain, as they put pressure on the muscles in your neck. Instead, try exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles in your upper back, like rows and pull-ups. While you exercise with a stiff neck, it may be difficult to breathe deeply. Try doing exercises like the plank pose or the cobra pose, which help you to relax your muscles and breathe more deeply. A gentle yoga routine is also a great way to relieve your neck pain and strengthen your core muscles.
Stretching Is the Best Way to Avoid Neck Pain While Working Out
Stretching is the best way to avoid neck pain while working out. Exercises like yoga, tai chi, or pilates are great for relaxing your muscles and helping you breathe more deeply. You could also try foam rolling, which is a great way to loosen up stiff muscles.
While working out, focus on your breathing and make an effort to slow down your movements. This will help you to relax your muscles and avoid overdoing it. You could also try wearing a neck support while exercising. There are many types of supports available, such as a collar that fits around your neck or a brace that supports your head and neck.
Which Workout Is Best for Strengthening the Neck?
A good workout for strengthening the neck is yoga poses like the cobra pose, the bridge pose, the locust pose, and the fish pose. You could also try planks, which strengthen your back and neck muscles. Exercises like tai chi, pilates, or yoga could also be helpful for improving the strength in your neck.
Unlike other exercises, yoga does not put pressure on your neck muscles and therefore is a safe and effective way to strengthen your neck. The best way to protect your neck while working out is to warm up well, use the right tools, avoid extreme movements, and stretch after every session.