Did you know that chronic neck pain is one of the most common problems faced by the majority of the population?
If you’re amongst the many people suffering chronic neck pains, I’d say it’s time you take a good hard look at your posture and make amends right away.
The majority of the population does not focus on their posture throughout the day, whether driving, working, or exercising. This carelessness results in neck, shoulder, and even back pain.
What Is Neck Pain?
The necks are made with vertebrae, starting from the skull’s back and continuing to the torso. These vertebrae have discs in between, which are responsible for handling and absorbing the shocks received by the bones.
All these bones in the neck, such as the discs, muscles, and ligaments, support the head and allow movements. These bones bearing the weight of the skull need to be kept in a good posture; otherwise, neck stiffness or neck pain is inevitable.
What Causes Neck Pain?
There are a variety of reasons for neck pain and stiffness. Here are the most common ones;
1. Poor Posture
One of the basic and the most common causes of neck pain and stiffness is poor posture. Understanding this underlying problem can help relieve the pain for good.
Let me explain what a good and bad posture is;
A good posture is when the ears are right above the shoulders, the chest is open, and the shoulders are back. This helps keep the head balanced naturally on our cervical spine and causes minimum stress on the neck.
However, a poor posture is when the head is forward and shoulders are pushed forward, causing neck bones to bear the unwanted stress.
When we stand or exercise in a poor or forward posture, we get neck pain or stiffness, hunched backs, and unnecessarily overworked muscles. If these are not taken care of, an individual may start to face muscle imbalances, spinal degeneration, and even immobility in the long run.
2. Muscle Strain
Muscle strain is the second most common cause of neck pain. Muscle strain is when the muscles get pulled or damage in the tendons near them.
This tearing and damage happen when excessive pressure is enforced on the muscles or the attached tendons. For example, when you’re going about your day, you suddenly decide to move some heavy object, lift heavy weights at the gym, etc.
When lifting heavy weights, it is necessary that a proper posture is maintained and a certain amount of warm-up is done so that your bones and muscles in the neck don’t suffer any severe shock, resulting in neck pain.
Wondering if you’ve strained a muscle? The basic symptoms are; swelling, bruising, pain while resting or moving the specific joint, etc. If you’re hearing popping sounds when moving the muscles, facing immobility, or have a fever, you need to contact your doctor for assistance as soon as possible.
A neck is a vital part of the body and amongst the most exposed parts as well. It consists of the cervical spine and spinal cord, nerves, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
The most common neck injuries are whiplash, neck sprain, and neck strain. All of these causes the ligaments, nerves, or muscles to be stretched or torn, leading to immediate pain and neck stiffness. Fortunately, these sprains and strains heal independently with medicines and massages or a neck brace for a short time in some cases.
Since the neck is exposed, it is vulnerable to serious injuries during compression, extreme movements, car accidents, and falls from a significant height. When the neck suffers such serious traumas, there is a high chance of cervical fracture where one or more vertebrae are broken.
Some severe neck injuries result in various conditions, ranging from minor discomfort to paralysis or even death. This is because neck injuries are usually related to head injuries and cause the spinal cord to be damaged, resulting in little to no nerve impulse between the brain and the body.
How To Prevent Neck Pain When Lifting Weights
A poor posture, previous injury, or strained muscles, all discussed above, can become an obstacle when weight lifting at the gyms, which compels the lifters to step away from the weights.
Here is how to avoid any neck pain from lifting weights because weight lifting should never be painful.
1. Maintain A Balanced Posture
When you’re lifting heavy weights at the gym, it is of utmost importance to maintain a good posture.
Keep your head straight, hips parallel to the floor, chest open, and shoulders back. Place your elbows by your sides, and then start lifting the dumbbells.
Maintaining a good posture is important because this helps you center your weight on your feet, enabling you to exercise correctly and avoid injuries.
2. Relax Your Neck and Jaw
When exercising, you unconsciously hold your neck and jaw tightly. This results in straining of the muscles for no reason and can lead to neck pain.
You can relax your neck and jaws by placing the tongue on the roof of your mouth, helping you ease the muscles.
Apart from this, taking deep breaths when lifting can also be helpful. Exhale your breath slowly when lifting the weights, and inhaling when relaxing can easily help you relax your neck and jaw muscles.
3. Strengthen the Weaker Side
We all have a dominant side in our bodies, be it the left or the right. Commonly, we force the less dominant side to carry heavy weights and work out as the dominant one, leading to muscular traumas.
It is suggested that you create a weight-lifting symmetry in your body by training your weak side. If you strengthen your less dominant side by exercising more, you’ll be able to create symmetry and lift heavy weights without causing traumas or neck pains.
4. Stay In Control
When working up the upper body, you’re not only exercising the hands or the abs but the neck as well.
This is why the weight lifter needs to make sure they can control the hand movements when lifting weights.
Staying in control of the weights means you can lift the dumbbells slowly and steadily while maintaining a balanced posture. If you’re unable to do so, it is better that you exercise with less heavy weights so that you don’t end up straining your necks.
No matter how ridiculous this word sounds to a powerlifter or a gym enthusiast, taking rest is very important.
Regardless of how good of a lifter you are, lifting weights two days in a row is not recommended. When you are lifting, the muscles are working at their maximum capacity and go through wearing and tearing, and on the rest days, the muscles get time to repair and heal themselves.
If you don’t rest and work out the same muscle groups regularly, the muscles will get overworked and end up causing serious injuries.
How To Strengthen Your Neck?
Now that you know the reasons for chronic neck pain and are looking for ways to strengthen it, here are a few exercises you could do at home using a neck harness.
A neck harness is the most basic and simplest tool that you can use to strengthen the neck muscles. It can be used anywhere, be it in the gym or at your home; a neck harness can help you work up all the necessary muscles in no time.
1. Neck Flexion
Neck flexion is one of the simplest exercises, where you move your chin down till your chest and then return up.
But this is not enough! Using the neck harness helps you work up your neck muscles properly. Here is how:
- Sit up straight on a bench, high enough for your knees to make a 90-degree angle.
- Select the amount of weight your neck can bear easily, and hang it in the harness chain.
- Keep your feet open shoulder-width apart with toes pointing forward and bend down your torso until it is almost parallel to the ground.
- Put the weight near your feet, make sure that it touches the ground, and tighten the harness on your head.
- Next, hold the weight in your hand and sit up straight again. Gently release the weight and place your arms on your knees.
- Now you’re ready to start your neck workout. Slowly lower your neck until your chin touches your chest, and then slowly go back up.
- Inhale your breath when going down and exhale when returning to the original position. Perform 15-20 reps and not more.
Tips: make sure you have secured the weight properly in the harness and are only carrying enough weight for your neck to bear. You have to keep the head movements slow and steady so that there are no jerks while you lift, or else you may end up injuring your neck.
2. Neck Lateral Flexion
This exercise targets your neck’s side muscles called ‘Sternocleidomastoid.’ In neck lateral flexion, the neck muscles are isolated, and the pull force is used to strengthen them.
Since neck muscles are a little delicate and doing them the wrong way can cause serious injuries, this is how you have to follow it for maximum results.
- Wrap the neck harness on your head properly and attach the preferred weight.
- Hold the weights in your hand and lie down on your side, keeping the head off the bench.
- Once you’re settled, release the weight slowly and hang it on the floor.
- Let your neck go down until you feel a slight stretch on the opposite side of the neck.
- Start lifting your neck slowly and steadily while you exhale and hold for two seconds.
- Now inhale and slowly lower the weights to their original position
- Repeat the steps for 15-20 reps and do the same practice on your other side.
Tips: do not allow the weights to touch the floor nor flex your neck beyond the feeling of slight stretch. Make sure you keep the lifting very slow and in control, or there will be severe consequences.
3. Neck Extension
Neck extension is used to strengthen the back of your neck and is as simple as the neck flexion exercise.
Follow these steps for doing the exercise correctly and avoiding any injuries.
- The First step for this exercise is to wear a neck harness on your head without any weights.
- Lie down on a bench, making sure your stomach touches the platform.
- Attach the preferred weights to your harness and slowly release them, ensuring no jerks are felt on the neck.
- Once the weights are released, you can now start your neck extensions.
- Gently lift your neck upwards until you’re looking up, then slowly return your head to the original position.
- The above two steps make a single rep. Repeat the steps within the range of 15-20 reps and not more.
4. Neck Rotation
Neck rotation is comparatively the easiest exercise to do. This simple rotation helps warm up your neck and loosen up the stiffness at the back and sides of your neck. This exercise smoothens up the neck movements and can be done while sitting or standing.
- Here is what you’ll have to do:
- Hold your head and body straight
- Keep your chin parallel to the ground
- Move your neck sideways and hold the position for 20-30 seconds
- Return to the original position and repeat on the other side.
- Perform 15-20 reps and up to 3 sets in total for effective results.
Neck Harness Can Be Your Guardian Angel
A neck harness is a must-have gym gear when it comes to strengthening and stabilizing the neck muscles.
This ultimate gym equipment is worn on the head and has weights hanging to help you work out the muscles. Whether you want to get into better shape or you’re a professional, a neck harness can enhance your training sessions for good.
The DMoose top quality and ergonomic designs help you work up your neck muscles comfortably. Apart from this, a neck harness is also a friendly gym gear for people recovering from any neck injury and wanting to get back to lifting weights.
The double stitching and neoprene padding ensure the comfortability and durability of the product so you can build stronger necks and keep the strains and pains at bay.
Risks Of Neck Exercises
Anything and everything that comes with a benefit have its fair share of risks attached to it. The same is the case for neck exercises.
When working out your neck, make sure you are not overworking it because it may lead to serious neck injuries. These may be caused by strained muscles, nerve compression, etc.
Make sure you perform all the exercises in a slow and controlled motion. If any of the exercises feel painful or too much, stop right away before you hurt yourself.
The neck is one of the most exposed body parts, and yet we end up ignoring it. It is extremely important that you stretch and relax your neck now and then and maintain a proper body posture. Maintaining a good posture while weight lifting will keep you away from chronic neck pains.
Lastly, when training your necks with exercises such as neck flexion or extension, always take small steps and follow your own pace so that you don’t end up hurting any of the discs located in your neck.
- Bovim, G., et al. ‘Neck Pain in the General Population’. Spine, vol. 19, no. 12, June 1994, pp. 1307–09. Europe PMC, https://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-199406000-00001.
- ‘Neck Pain’. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, vol. 17, no. 1, Feb. 2003, pp. 57–70. www.sciencedirect.com, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1521-6942(02)00097-9.
- Guez, Michel, et al. ‘The Prevalence of Neck Pain’. Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica, vol. 73, no. 4, Jan. 2002, pp. 455–59. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, https://doi.org/10.1080/00016470216329.
- Falla, Deborah, et al. ‘Effect of Neck Exercise on Sitting Posture in Patients With Chronic Neck Pain’. Physical Therapy, vol. 87, no. 4, Apr. 2007, pp. 408–17. Silverchair, https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20060009.
- ‘Neck and Back Pain: Musculoskeletal Disorders’. Neurologic Clinics, vol. 25, no. 2, May 2007, pp. 419–38. www.sciencedirect.com, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ncl.2007.01.006.
- ‘Whiplash Neck Injury’. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 40, no. 5, May 1996, pp. 461–74. www.sciencedirect.com, https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-3999(95)00586-2