Prevent Neck Pain while Running

By Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

Las Vegas Informer

Prevent neck pain while running to increase performance. Incorporate several simple guidelines to prevent the occurrence or worsening of neck pain when running.

Injury prevention is easier, faster and less expensive than injury rehabilitation. Neck pain is more than just a nuisance when running. Neck symptoms and discomfort can negatively affect your running performance. A healthy neck is vital in all sports. The neck functions to support and move the head.

Before Running: Conduct a thorough warm-up that includes the neck, upper back and shoulders. A comprehensive warm-up prepares your neck and upper back for running. Incorporate dynamic motions and static stretches.

Dynamic Motions: Execute the dynamic motions before the static stretches. Always work through a pain-free range of motion. The movements should be slow and controlled. Move the neck in all directions. Include bending the neck forward, backward, right and left. Turn the neck right and left. Slide the neck forward and retract your neck straight backward. Roll your neck in each direction two or three times. Perform several shoulder shrugs, shoulder rotations, arm circles and scapular retractions to prepare the shoulders. Attempt to work out the kinks and loosen the entire neck, upper back and shoulder area.

Static Stretching: Static stretches increase flexibility and decrease tightness. Stretching is not a flexibility contest and should never elicit symptoms. Exhale and move slowly into a comfortable stretch. Hold a gentle neck stretch between ten to twenty seconds. Stretch your neck toward your chest, to both sides and between straight forward and directly to the side.

While Running: Several key factors reduce the possibility of running-related neck injuries. Spinal posture, good shoulder posture, correct hand positioning, proper breathing and jaw relaxation.

Spinal Posture: Maintain an upright spinal position and keep your head in line with your spine. Hold your spine and neck in good posture throughout your run. Never lean forward while running. A forward leaning posture places excess demand on the lower back and middle back. When the middle and lower sections of the spine are in good posture it is easier to maintain good neck posture.

Maintain your neck in line with your spine. Never hold your head jutted forward or bent downward. Forward head carriage places increased workload on the neck and upper back. Increased workload results in fatigue, pain and symptoms. Bending the neck forward for an extended amount of time increases pressure on the vertebrae and muscles. The spine is the nucleus of movement, maintaining proper spinal and neck posture is imperative to lessening the possibility of acquiring running related neck pain.

Shoulder Posture: Keep your shoulders relaxed and in a neutral position. Never shrug your shoulders while running. Shrugging your shoulders tenses the neck and upper back muscles. Prolonged neck muscle tension is a precursor to pain and stiffness.

Move your shoulders and arms in a natural state. Holding your arms hanging straight down pulls on the neck and upper back muscles. Continuous pull on the neck and upper back muscles leads to muscle tightness, discomfort and pain.

Maintain good shoulder posture by keeping your shoulders in line with your spine and neck. Don’t let your shoulders roll forward and downward. Holding your shoulders in a neutral position means the shoulders are in line with the spine and neck, they are not rolled forward or retracted too far backward.

Correct Hand Positioning: Hold your hands held loosely. Position your hands with the tips of your thumbs lightly contacting the tips of your middle fingers. Don’t clench your fists. Fist clenching creates tension throughout the entire upper body including the neck and upper back. Relaxed hands allow freer arm, shoulder and neck movement.

Proper Breathing: Proper breathing while running lessens stress on the neck and upper back muscles. Proper breathing entails: Inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the mouth in cadence with your running steps.

Labored breathing is a necessity during and after running hard or sprinting. Oxygen debt forces the body to breath deeper to supply the working muscles with additional oxygen.

Excessive deep breathing when not necessary overworks the neck and upper back muscles. Several of the neck muscles are accessory breathing muscles. Accessory breathing muscles attach to the ribcage, sternum or clavicles. They contract to raise and/or expand the ribcage during deep breathing. Repetitive contraction of the accessory breathing muscles in the neck and upper back leads to fatigue, spam and pain.

Jaw Relaxation: Hold your jaw in a naturally relaxed position while running. Never clench your teeth or continually bite down when running. Teeth clenching increases pressure in the jaw, head and neck muscles.

After Running: Keep moving immediately following your run. Perform dynamic motions for three to five minutes, and then execute several static stretches. Give your body time to transition from an intense exercise state to a non-exercise state.

A great time to massage and stretch the neck muscles is during your post workout shower. Let the hot water directly hit your neck and upper back to increase blood flow to the muscles. Gently massage and stretch the muscles to lessen tension.

Conclusion: Neck pain is bothersome and performance limiting in all sports. Prevention is the best medicine. Build a healthier neck to increase athletic performance and lower the possibility of acquiring pain. Spend a few extra minutes before and after running to improve the health of your neck. Use good posture, proper breathing and good hand positioning while running to remove any unnecessary demand on the neck. Enjoy your runs, get healthier and combat running-related neck pain by implementing these suggested guidelines.

Dr_Donald_A_Ozello_thumb_medium150_Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is the owner and treating doctor at Championship Chiropractic. 6445 S. Tenaya Way, Suite #120, Las Vegas, NV 89113.  His web address is He can be contacted at (702) 286-9040 and

Dr. Donald A. Ozello’s mission is to educate and inspire others to live healthier, fitter, more functional lives.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC proudly handles Standard Process Supplements and Foot Levelers Orthotics.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC writes a weekly health, fitness and nutrition column for the Las Vegas Informer. His is published in OnFitness and . He has educational health, fitness and nutritional videos on Informer TV and

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is an award-winning public speaker. He has spoken to numerous groups on the importance of health, fitness, exercise, ergonomics, nutrition and injury prevention.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is a fitness enthusiast. Functional kettlebell training, running and bike riding are his favorite types of exercise.

Before pursuing his career in Chiropractic, Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC served in the United States Navy aboard the USS Bremerton, SSN 698.

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