Neck pain from running is not as common as back pain, runner’s knee, or any other forms of tendinitis and bursitis. This does not mean that it is not as serious and should not be pushed through. As a Holistic Spine and Sports Medicine Physical Therapist trained in making sense of injuries in relation to how you move, running is a form of exercise that requires a combination of 4 factors in this specific order: sufficient tissue pliability, coordination, recovery, and endurance. Strength would be added to this comprehensive list, but many interpret this word differently. Research has demonstrated that you do need strength training that matches the distance, techniques, terrain and past medical history. The key word is matches to your running requirements.
Running is an energy efficient form of exercise. When you have neck pain from running, there is a leak in your body’s running kinetic chain. Kinetic chain means that ability to produce an action from the vast connections of muscles and joints throughout your whole body. The concept of the kinetic chain originated in 1875 by Franz Reuleaux and adapted to the human body by Dr. Arthur Steindler in 1955. A great analogy is to picture a 50-floor building during a strong hurricane. Each floor is a segment that connects to each other. The top floors can be seen swaying from side to side and is at the mercy of the bottom floors.
What connects your muscles and joints together? The fascia system (see picture – the blue lines).
The fascial system is the system that allows our body to produce rapid and strong movements like a spring or whip. The stiffer the whip is, or mentioned above in this article as “sufficient tissue pliability”, the more effort it will take to produce high impact. In the running world, this can be translated into sprinting or a higher bounce. In order to change the experience that is happening at the neck (top of the building or end of the whip), you have to change everything below the neck.
YES! This is what we do when we get a runner with neck pain. This is what separates from quick fix from LASTING neck pain relief. We completely reshape the function and make-up of a runner’s body to match their running style, terrain, and mindset.
In the order of building healthy kinetic chain movement for LASTING neck pain relief: sufficient tissue pliability, coordination, recovery, and endurance plus strength.
If you need immediate relief and need some answers about your running situation, you can click on the green button for a FREE TELE-health diagnostic consultation.
This article, Part 1 will bring tips to help bring more tissue pliability and coordination. Part 2 will talk about bringing more recovery and endurance plus strength to your kinetic chain.
FACTOR #1: Leak in your ankle kinetic chain.
Read our article called “Ankle foot” to learn that our ankle complex has 4 parts to the ankle kinetic chain. The foot tends to be the first to be addressed in any running ailments with orthotic and shoewear, but that limits the ability of the whip to move freely.
TIP # 1: Ankle dorsiflexion
Get into a 1/2 kneeling position. Shift your knee forward in the direction of your 2nd toe. You should not feel a pinch to the front of your ankle. Repeat 10 times.
TIP # 2: Ankle plantarflexion
Sit and grab the forefoot of one foot. Pull it down like you are stretching your foot into a ballerina toe-pointing motion. Pull further than you think you need to but you should not have more than 4/10 pulling sensation.
TIP #3: Arch massage
Grab a tennis ball and place it under your foot. Start with your heel and massage it towards your big toe. Restart at your heel and massage towards your 2nd toe. Repeat to your 3rd, 4th, and little toes. Repeat 10 times.
Now stand and gently massage your arch side to side with the ball for 2 minutes.
TIP #4: Double limb stance with neck movements (on sofa cushion)
Stand on a sofa cushion. If this is difficult, then practice regaining your balance without moving your neck. Once this becomes easier and safe, turn your head side to side 5-10 times. Follow this with head nodding down and up for 5-10 times.
FACTOR # 2: Leak in your hips kinetic chain
TIP #5: Glute stretches
Sit on a chair with your knees slightly wider than your hips. Gently press your arch into the ground. Bend forward at your waist. Reach down towards your ankles, then the floor. Push yourself back into an erect seated position by pushing your hands into your leg. Repeat 10 times.
TIP # 6: Hip flexor stretch with respiration.
Kneel down on one knee. Raise both arms up. Breath INWARDS and gently attempts to expand your lower belly out. Hold for 30 seconds.
Once you have done this, gently shift your hips forward. How far your shift forward depends on your control since you are not using your arms, but your balance.
FACTOR # 3: Leak in your middle back and rib cage kinetic chain.
TIP #7: Middle back foam roller (2 ways)
Support your neck by interlocking your fingers behind your neck. Lay on the foam roller slightly below your wing bones. Roll up and arch back and forward over the foam roller. Next, bend sideways by bringing your elbow closer towards your side pelvis. You are not attempting to touch the two points but move sideways like a windshield wiper.
Repeat 5 times then move upward and repeat.
TIP #8: Quadriped middle back rotation
Get on the ground and place your elbows and knees together. Place one hand behind your neck and gently twist your middle back. Get the motion by pushing your bottom elbow into the ground as opposed to twisting from your low back.
TIP #9: Front chest stretch
Lay on the foam roller. Lay your arms overhead into a Y-position. Take a deep breath INWARDS with the attempt to expand your lower navel region. Exhale for 10 seconds afterward. Repeat 10 times.
FACTOR # 4: Leak in your neck kinetic chain.
TIP #10: Arcing Neck Retraction
Sit and bend your neck forward. KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR CHEST THE WHOLE TIME. Bring your head back up but do not lose your eye hold. Bring it back with your head tipped back a bit. Bend it side to side for 3 reps. Return back to bending forward and repeat 5 times.
PHEW (that was a lot)!!! These are the 4 main places you will leak kinetic chain energy and the 10 overall tips to help your neck pain from running. If you noticed the comprehensive nature of the article, these are great exercises for any running injuries.
Add this to your daily routine for 3 weeks. Our next article will elaborate on the recovery and endurance plus strength phase to eliminate your neck pain from running. Part 2 will be great to juggle after 2 weeks of doing the program designed in this article.
If you live in the surrounding neighborhood of Bixby Knolls or cities of Long Beach and would like us to give you LASTING relief from your running injury, click on the button below to save a time on our schedule. This will be a TELE-Health diagnostic consultation where we can help to determine, over the phone or SKYPE, if we are the place that can give you the LASTING relief you are seeking.
Dr Danh Ngo
Spine and Sports Medicine Physical Therapist
ReVITALize Rehab Club
Bixby Knolls, Long Beach