Stiff Neck

For the past few months I have suffered from a terribly stiff neck. I have changed my pillows and even moved my computer monitor but the stiffness won't go away. Could this have anything to do with running? I only started running in October 04 and cover about 15 miles per week. Any advice would be welcomed.


  • Hi Andrew.

    My neck gets very stiff/tension between the shoulders whenever I start to up the miles. I don't run with anything in my hands, and have then loosely open, which helps a bit.

    PC wise have you lifted the monitor to eye level and use a full keyboard (if a laptop)?

    I have had two full massages these week to loosen me up...but it tightens after the next run. Anyone got any ideas for exercises to help?????
  • C'mon people, there must be some more stiff-neckers out there. Wanna start a stiff neck club? That would be funny to watch at least...

    Andrew, I might locate a water bottle and lie on that for a bit, wonder if the warmth would relax the neck?
  • Thanks Nick, tried the hot water bottle trick, much to the amusement of my wife! The lads at work have started calling me frankenstein!! Perhaps there are some stretches I should be doing?
  • Yes, I agree. I have done a little googling to no useful effect. Any runners out there who know good stretches for stiff necks????
  • Hi

    I've had problems with my neck for years, not running related (only just starting that!), but maybe I can help with some stretches. This is from seeing a physio about 18 months ago. In my case it's not cured it, but it helps me manage it. My problems are probably mainly postural/enviromental (still working on that!), may have started with some whiplash, and may be now developing into arthritis... Anyway...

    Of course, I'd say see your doctor really... and get referred to a physio!

    Start off imagining your head is on a board and slide it back and forward 15 times (sort of like the sand dance but front and back instead of side to side!)

    Next turn your head side to side as if you were trying to look behind you: left then right alternately, 15 times. Turn as far as you can, but keep it slow.

    Next put your head on your shoulder (or as close as you can get it), 15 times one side, then 15 the other.

    Next is one I've had trouble with, but it's good if you get pain/stiffness where your neck joins the back of your skull. You can do it lying down or sitting anywhere, but it's easier to 'get' standing back against a wall I think. You want to push/slide the back of your head up slightly, but without tightening the muscles under your chin, and hold for a few seconds. Reapeat a few times.

    I also do some others that involve resistance against a handhold, but I wouldn't like to try describing those! I think they could be dodgy if they were done wrong.

    Other advice: never 'roll' your neck to stretch it. Apparently the up to date advice is that your neck is designed to move in one direction at a time, so rolling stresses it.

    Look at what could be contributing in your enviroment: pc screen should be at eye level, pillow low etc.

    Get a massage whenever possible. And work your shoulders too: a lot of tension in the neck can come from the shoulders.

  • Thanks for the detailed info Rowan, I'll give that a go. Nick
  • hello stiff neck peeps,

    Stiff neck is often (usualy) a sympton of tight, overly strong anterior chest muscles and lengthened, weak neck upper back muscles. It is posturial problem.

    The neck pain comes on because the tight chest muscles are pulling on the weakend back/neck muscles and causing them pain.

    When you run you are high lighting this problem.

    To cure the problem you need to stretch out the anteior muscles (pecs minor and major, anterior deltoid) and strengthen the rhomboids, upper trapezius, lev' scapula and the rotator cuff muscles.

    the stretches are pretty straight forward, if in doubt just google them.

    To strengthen them any exercise that produces scapula winging with the palms of you hands facing upwards. The rowing machine is good, make sure your palms are upwards or the pecs will play a part and make sure you have good posture.
    There are loads more but time permits me to go into too much detail.

  • Hello, I'm another one for the stiff neck gang (but not from running)!

    The best thing you can probably do is go to a Chiropractor! It may be that your spine is misaligned somwehere and this is causing your neck problem.

    As far as exercises go - I have been advised against using the rowing machine so you should probably use it with caution. Make sure you don't have any problems with your back that may be aggravated before commencing specific exercises.

    Oh, and an ice pack would be better than heat - it reduces inflamation and helps manage pain.

    Hope this helps.
  • I guess there's probably a lot of variables that you really need to ask a profesional about: my physio suggested using heat, but maybe cold is better for some.

    Next time I see my doctor I'm going to see if seeing a chiropractor/osteopath would be possible. It's not really possible for me to see one privately right now.
  • Ice is used in the accute phase for as you say, reducing inflamation and analgesic effects but heat used during the profileration and remodeling stages to loosen stiff muscles and increasing blood flow therfore speeding up the healing process
  • BTW if you use the rower with correct posture it's usualy ok although there is always the odd case where it might be contraindicated.
    If in doubt seek proffessional help.
  • Personally I tend to avoid chiropractors, seems a bit violent and it never did anything for me. I try and concentrate now on getting a good stretch, plus a good hard massage every couple of weeks (thai is great) and a couple of panadol for runs over 18m, which is when it really kicks in :o)

    I do completely agree with the comments about work posture - the worst pain I got was when I was having no massage, spending many hours in front of the PC and in the late stages of marathon training, so the weekly milage was high.
  • andrew,

    try getting into the semi supine position at least once a day see the attached link for information.

    you could consider some for of somatic training, to get rid of the cause!!!! i.e. alexander lessons, somatic education, feldenkrais etc

    another thing to try is stand or sit upright (not leaning back in a chair) check your range of movement by turning the head left and right. Do this very very slowly and stop when you feel the tension increasing!!!! now place your left hand on your right trapezius (on your shoulder next to your neck) and with your eyes shut turn your head left slowly. open your eyes has your Range of movement increased? do the same with the other hand/shoulder/head direction.


  • I've had this stiffness on and off for years..esp when running for over an hour. Latterly it has got worse and forced me to stop running for 50 odd days because pain and tingling began down into the arm.GP diagnosed spondylosis which is a bummer, if you've got it, it seems you have to lump it. Voltarol and rest has calmed it down but I'm stuck on 4 miles at the moment.Four miles is ..quite nice!
  • I got some advice on my running stance (I was a bit bent forward) and resolved the neck issue.

    Now I put my head back a little more, stand a little taller and straighter and take a slightly longer stride. Also consciously keep shoulders low and loose. Neck stiffness gone :o)

    When I started trying to improve the stance I got lower back muscle aches, but it was just them adjusting to the extra work of holding me up straighter. Hope this helps someone.
  • What an interesting thread, I too have had neck problems since the start of the year. Have wondered about possible causes but having read Pizza man`s post reckon it is most likely to be postural. ( I have terrible posture ). Often feels worse when I run.

    Wonder if the shop will refund that pillow I just bought...
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