Neck Pain From Workout: Tips For Immediate And Long-Term Relief

By Gary Little

Updated On

Pushing your body to its limits during a workout can leave you feeling accomplished, but it can also lead to unpleasant side effects like neck pain. While some muscle soreness is expected after intense exercise, persistent or severe neck pain from workouts should not be ignored. This article will delve into the causes of neck pain from exercise and offer practical tips for finding both immediate relief and long-term solutions.

Is It Normal For My Neck To Hurt After Working Out?

Experiencing some muscle soreness or stiffness in a day or two following a challenging workout is completely normal – it’s your body’s natural response to the stress of exercise. A little neck discomfort in the aftermath of a workout is usually nothing to worry about, especially if you tried new exercises or increased the intensity.

My Neck To Hurt After Working Out

However, if the neck pain from the workout is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms like numbness, weakness, or shooting pains, it could be a sign of something more serious that requires medical attention. Ignoring severe or chronic neck pain could potentially lead to further injury or long-term issues.

Common Causes Of Neck Pain From Workout

There are several potential reasons why your neck might be hurting after a workout:

1. Poor Form or Technique

Improper form during exercises that engage the neck and shoulder muscles can lead to strain and pain. Weightlifting exercises like overhead presses, upright rows, and certain yoga or Pilates poses are common culprits for neck strain if not performed with proper alignment and control.

2. Muscle Imbalances

If certain muscle groups are significantly stronger or tighter than others, it can create imbalances that put extra stress on the neck. This is often the case for those who focus heavily on chest and shoulder exercises without balancing it with back and core work, leading to overly tight pectoral muscles and weak upper back muscles.

3. Repetitive Motion

Repetitive motions, like those involved in cycling, swimming, or rowing, can cause the neck muscles to become overworked and inflamed over time. The constant strain and lack of variation can lead to neck pain from workouts.

4. Sudden Increase in Intensity or Duration

If you significantly increase the intensity, duration, or load of your workout without properly preparing your body, you may experience neck pain from the workout as a result of the added stress on those muscles.

5. Existing Conditions or Injuries

Underlying conditions like arthritis, herniated discs, or previous neck injuries can make the neck more susceptible to pain and inflammation during or after exercise.

How To Relieve Neck Pain After Workouts: Tips & Tricks For Fast Recovery

If you find yourself dealing with neck pain from a workout, there are several steps you can take to find relief and speed up the recovery process:

Apply Ice or Heat

In the first 48-72 hours after the onset of neck pain, apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times per day to reduce inflammation and numb the pain. After that initial period, you can try using a heating pad or taking a warm shower to increase blood flow and relax the muscles.

Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can help alleviate neck pain from workouts by reducing inflammation and pain. Just be sure to follow the dosage instructions and avoid taking them on an empty stomach.

Try Gentle Stretching and Massage

Performing gentle neck stretches and massaging the area can help relieve tension, improve mobility, and promote healing. Be careful not to overdo it, as aggressive stretching or deep tissue massage could potentially make the pain worse in the short term.

Improve Your Posture

Poor posture, especially when sitting for long periods, can exacerbate neck pain by putting additional strain on the muscles and joints. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day and take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and reset your alignment.

Use a Neck Support or Brace

If the neck pain from a workout is severe or debilitating, wearing a cervical collar or neck brace can provide support and limit movement while the area heals. However, it’s important not to rely on a brace for too long, as it can lead to muscle weakness and further issues.

Get Enough Rest

Adequate rest and recovery are essential for allowing the body to heal from the stress of exercise. Avoid high-impact activities or exercises that aggravate the neck pain until it has subsided.

Best Exercises To Relieve Neck Pain After Workout

While the tips above can provide immediate relief, incorporating certain exercises into your routine can help prevent and alleviate neck pain from workouts in the long run.

1. Neck Stretches and Mobility Exercises

Simple neck stretches like the neck tilt, neck rotation, and chin tuck can improve flexibility and relieve tension in the neck muscles. Gently rolling the shoulders and performing neck circles can also help increase mobility and blood flow to the area.

2. Upper Back and Shoulder Exercises

Exercises that strengthen the muscles in the upper back and shoulders, like rows, reverse flies, and face pulls, can help counteract imbalances and take pressure off the neck. A strong upper back can better support the neck and head during exercises and daily activities.

3. Core Strengthening

A strong, stable core helps support proper posture and takes strain off the neck and upper back. Try exercises like planks, crunches, bird dogs, and dead bugs to strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles.

4. Yoga and Pilates

These low-impact workouts often incorporate neck stretches and focus on proper alignment, which can be beneficial for preventing and managing neck pain. Poses like child’s pose, cat/cow, and gentle backbends can provide relief for a tight or strained neck.

5. Foam Rolling

Using a foam roller to perform self-myofascial release on the upper back, shoulders, and even the neck (with caution) can help relieve tension and tightness in the surrounding muscles.

6. Low-Impact Cardio

Low-impact activities like walking, cycling, or swimming can help increase blood flow and promote healing without putting excessive strain on the neck.


Neck pain from workout can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to derail your fitness journey. By identifying the root cause, employing immediate relief strategies, and incorporating preventative exercises, you can find long-term relief and continue pursuing your fitness goals without being sidelined by neck pain.

Remember, if the neck pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying issues and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

With the right approach and commitment to proper form and balance in your workout routine, you can minimize the risk of neck pain and keep your body feeling strong and pain-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal to have neck pain after a workout?

Some mild neck soreness or stiffness after a tough workout is normal, but severe or persistent pain may indicate an injury.

Should I work out with neck pain?

It’s best to avoid exercises that aggravate neck pain until the pain subsides. Focus on gentle stretches and low-impact activities instead.

How to loosen a stiff neck?

Try gentle neck stretches, applying a heating pad, getting a massage, and doing mobility exercises like neck rolls.

How long does neck strain take to heal?

Minor neck strains typically improve within a few days with proper care, but more severe strains may take 1-2 weeks or longer to fully heal.

How to sleep with neck pain?

Use a supportive pillow that keeps your neck aligned, apply a cold pack before bed, and try sleeping on your back or side with a pillow between your knees.

Can you lift weights with a stiff neck?

It’s generally advisable to avoid heavy weightlifting until neck pain and stiffness have resolved to prevent further injury. Focus on low-impact exercises instead.

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