There’s a reason people refer to harassment as “neck pain” – neck pain is very uncomfortable at best and completely debilitating at worst. We often have a lot of stress on our neck, but we tend to pay little attention to this part of the body. If you’ve ever mindlessly massaged the curve between your neck and shoulders after a workout, this trick is for you.
The next time your coach, instructor, or trainer tells you to raise your head during an abs series, or where to look during a yoga flow, think of your eyes first, then your neck, and then stop looking Guide your neck movements instead of the other way around. Then focus on keeping your neck smooth and “wrinkle-free”. What does that mean exactly? First, touch your neck and slowly tilt your head upward. See how it feels kind of wrinkled? Your neck should be a natural extension of your spine. Depending on the exercise, it’s okay to keep your chin slightly tucked in – but straightening your neck outward or upward should be avoided at all costs.
When you are on your back – think hip bridges or dead bugs with your face pointing towards the sky – you can keep your chin neutral or slightly pulled up. If you’re doing ab exercises that involve lifting your head off the floor, slowly raise yourself up and keep your gaze on your belly button for the duration of the work. (And if that gets uncomfortable, it’s okay to put your head back down.) If you are in the prone position – think of planks or push-ups with your face facing the floor – keep your eyes lowered and stand a smooth neck.
In disciplines like Pilates or yoga, the teacher will often tell you where to look. If you are deliberate and treat each transition with the same care, you will be amazed at how much less you have to swallow ibuprofen or crack your neck for relief.
More tips for neck pain relief
In between workouts, focus on building other good habits that will help relieve muscle tension.
- If you’ve been at your desk all day, get a monitor stand or monitor riser to bring your computer closer to your eye line. While you’re at it, invest in a good chair that supports your back and can be adjusted to different heights so that you can change your line of sight if necessary.
- To avoid a “text throat”, try bringing your phone closer to you instead of staring at it in your hands or in your lap. Whenever possible, use your computer, laptop, or tablet to do phone-related tasks; these devices are larger and therefore usually less cumbersome to use.
- Practice looking up, down, and side to side without moving your neck. The gaze leads and the body follows. Remember: eyes first, neck then!