“This exercise is hurting my neck” is a comment most trainers have heard, and a number of people have experienced when undertaking certain core exercises. The cause of neck pain during certain core exercises usually comes from incorrect form/technique and too much neck flexion (pushing your head/neck forward). Other causes could be overused muscles in the neck and shoulder region resulting in minor strains or simply just a weakness in that area.
The average head weighs roughly 4-5kgs, that’s a lot of weight to carry for weak or underused neck muscles. Now that we understand some of the causes, how do we fix it or at the very least remove the discomfort?
As previously mentioned above ensure your client is performing the exercise correctly.
Supporting the head during certain core exercises will help. Start by placing hands behind the ears or interlock your fingers and place them behind the head. But remember, do not let your hands push your neck down. Your hands are not there to force your upper body off the ground, that’s what your abs are for. Simply use your hands to support or cradle your head.
Advise clients to focus on a spot in the sky/ceiling and continue looking at it for the duration of the exercise. Relaxing the shoulders helps during this process as tension pushes the shoulders up causing the neck to strain.
Try building and strengthening the core with exercises that don’t involve flexing your head. Leg Lifts, Scissor Kicks, Reverse Crunches and Planks to name a few. Once you build that core strength then return to the previous exercises that involve lifting the upper body off the ground.
If all the above tips don’t help and the pain persists then it may be advisable to see a physiotherapist and seek their professional advice.