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How to Avoid Neck Pain While Working Out

Nothing is worse that getting done with an intense workout and feeling pain in your neck. After all, it's your muscles that should be sore, not your neck from straining. If you feel like every time you get on the floor to do crunches, you get back up with pain in your neck, it's time to change that! Keep reading for the best tips for knocking out neck pain for good!

The next time your coach, instructor, or trainer tells you to lift your head during an ab series or where to look during a yoga flow, think eyes first, neck second, allowing your gaze to direct your neck movements instead of the other way around. Then focus on keeping the back of your neck flat and "wrinkle-free." What does that mean, exactly? First, touch the back of your neck and slowly tilt your head upward. See how it feels kind of wrinkly? Your neck should be a natural extension of your spine. Depending on the movement you are performing, it's perfectly fine to keep your chin slightly tucked — but don't crane or crank your neck outward or upward or you're going to be feeling some serious neck pain. If you're in a supine position — think: hip bridges, where your face is looking up towards the ceiling — you can keep your chin neutral or slightly tucked. If you're doing ab work that calls for your head to be lifted off the ground, lift slowly and keep your eyes on your belly button for the duration of the work. (And if this gets uncomfortable, it's OK to put your head back down.) If you're in a prone position — think: planks or push-ups, where your face is towards the floor— keep your eyes down and visualize a smooth back of the neck.

Tips to Relieve Neck Pain:

1. Make some adjustments. Position your computer monitor at eye level so you can see it easily. Use the hands-free function on your phone or wear a headset while on the phone. Prop your tablet on a pillow so that it sits at a 45° angle, instead of lying flat on your lap (and avoid the dreaded "tech neck" pain and wrinkles).

2. Don't stay in one position for too long. It's hard to reverse bad posture, but if you get up and move around often enough, you can avoid getting your neck stuck in an harmful position.

3. Stretch out your neck. Do the following stretches to help relieve tension.

Stretch #1. Chin Tucks

  • Place a finger on your chin while looking straight ahead

  • Slowly bring your chin and head back (this may feel awkward and like you have a “double chin”). Do not bring your finger with you- there should be about two inches of space in between your finger and chin

  • You should feel a stretch at the bottom of your head and top of your neck!

  • Hold for 5-10 seconds

  • Guide your chin back towards your finger

  • Repeat stretch 10 times

Stretch #2. Upper Trapezius Stretch

  • Sit up straight and bring your left hand overhead and place it on your right cheekbone.

  • Gently bring your left ear to your left shoulder (make sure your shoulders are relaxed and aren’t tempted to lift upwards)

  • Hold for 20-30 seconds

  • Repeat on opposite side

  • Do not push on your head-the stretch should not be painful

Stretch #3. Neck Extensions

  • Preferably In a standing position, roll your shoulders back then clasp your hands behind your back 

  • Gently extend your head back (looking toward the ceiling) 

  • Hold for 30 seconds

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