It's very common to feel tired, sore, and fatigue after a good workout. Your legs, arms, abs, and butt can get a good workout and feel the burn. Your neck should not.
If your neck starts feeling sore after your workouts, it's a sign something is wrong. You need to start taking better care of your posture and your movements…
Otherwise, long-term damage could result.
How Neck Strain Hurts Your Whole Body
Most of the time, neck strain during exercise comes from improper alignment. The muscles of your upper back and shoulders work where it should be your arms or core.
The muscles of your neck have a lot to do. They are a series of many tiny muscles aligned in precise ways to precisely control the movement of your head. They're not meant for heavy work other than holding your head upright.
If these muscles start to get sore, you could begin feeling headaches, jaw pain, or unexplained fatigue. It could radiate down your back, causing pain in your upper and middle back.
As your neck muscles get sore, you might try compensating, holding your head a different way, to make it feel better. But, it just puts additional strain on other small muscles of your back, making back pain even worse.
It could go so far as to cause nerve damage. As the muscles of your neck tense up, it's going to pull your spine tighter or cause inflammation. This can put the squeeze on your nerves. You might start feeling unexplained pain radiating down into your shoulders, elbows, and hands. At its worst, you might feel numbness or an inability to move your hands.
It All Begins With Your Posture
Unfortunately, in today's society, posture has been forgotten. Moving efficiently has been replaced with strutting. Slouching is the new normal. And because of the use of cell phones and other digital devices, tipping the head forward is very common and even has its own unique diagnosis – tech neck.
This transfers over into your exercises. Optimally, to really target the muscles and get a good workout, you have to align your body the right way.
Starting from your feet, your weight should evenly distribute across your whole foot. Your knees should be slightly ahead of your ankles and your hips right above your ankles. Your hips should be tucked under, which engages your core muscles and relaxes your back.
Your shoulder should pull back, using the broad trapezius muscles and allowing your lungs to open fully. Finally, your head should slide back a little bit so it's over your shoulders, eyes should face forward and be level to the ground.
Test yourself – is this the way you normally stand?
Or do you curl up a little bit, letting your shoulders round in and your head tip forward?
If you're doing exercise with the curled-up posture, you're putting a lot more strain on your shoulders and neck than it needs. By standing up straighter, you move the work of arm exercises into your arms, getting more out of your workout in less time.
Start by practicing simply standing up straight, engaging your core muscles to pull your hips, which helps align the rest of your body. It's going to look little odd right at first, but it will feel better. One of the interesting side effects of this is increased confidence. Confident people tend to stand up straighter.
Make sure when you start walking, you carry this posture with you. We're going to have an article coming up soon on walking and its health benefits.
But it goes beyond standing and walking. Most people spend the majority of their waking hours sitting down. The same posture for standing up applies to sitting down. Your shoulder should be back, head up, and shoulders over hips.
But, we know that's probably not even close to how you usually sit. And that's okay.
Start by making a few changes in your posture and practice them regularly. Maybe you pull your shoulders back more often and stick your head up. Maybe you just put up rather than laying back in the lounge chair.
Keep Your Shoulders Down And Chin Up!
When you exercise, particularly during the upper body workouts, keep your shoulders down and chin up. Tensing up your shoulders brings the work to your shoulders and contributes to neck pain. It can last for hours or days after your workout, affecting everything you do. And, it's made worse by poor posture sitting and standing.
You may need to practice this often, and you may find your workout changing. You might start feeling more burn in your arms and core as you take the proper posture.
That's a good thing.
You can relieve your neck and shoulder pain by practicing good posture. We hope you take this and give yourself and your shoulders a break.