Jogger's neck?
October 29, 2011 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Why does my neck hurt when I jog?

I have recently taken up jogging, and I love it, but my the back of my neck, sort of around the bones at the top of my spine, hurt when I run. Is this because of the impact of the city streets? (I jog on the sidewalk and in the park when I can.) Am I not carrying my head sufficiently erect? I remember this problem from occasionally playing sports, when I was a kid. What is going on here and how can I make this better? Sometimes the discomfort is enough to make me want to just jog home. (By the way, my job involves me sitting at my computer for hours and hours on end. Also, in case it matters: I'm a woman in her early 30s.) Thanks!
posted by PersonAndSalt to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: ps: I seem to keep tension in my shoulders, a LOT. I have never had any spinal/other health problems.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2011

I don't have pain in that exact same place, more spread out to the shoulders themselves, but it helps me to run a few steps with my neck and shoulders super-loose, so they can bob and flail freely. I'm sure this looks ridiculous so I try to time it for when there's nobody too close by.
posted by lakeroon at 7:18 AM on October 29, 2011

If this is your only symptom, something different is probably going on, but just in case, here's what's going on with me...

I have a Chiari Malformation. When I run (which hasn't been for years), I have pain at the back of my head and neck/top of my spine. For me, if I don't stop what I'm doing immediately, it becomes a really bad headache (feels like someone is pressing directly at the base of my skull). I also have similar problems when jumping, lifting heavy things, looking up, laughing too hard, moving too quickly, etc, etc, etc. I've also got some balance issues. (Most of my symptoms are now controlled with drugs, but it's the sort of thing where surgery is a future possibility.)

Anyway, I'm not trying to alarm you or anything, but any time I hear someone complaining of pain in their neck/brain stem area, the first thing I do is tell them they should go talk to a neurologist and see about getting an MRI. That area controls the basic body functions (breathing, temperature regulation, etc), and if there's pain there, you do not want to ignore it. It could be a sign that something serious is wrong.

You could also be perfectly fine, of course, but it's better to be safe and get everything checked out. If you've got health insurance, you should make an appointment with a doctor to discuss this before getting more serious with your jogging.
posted by phunniemee at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2011

Best answer: How would you qualify the pain? Sharp? Dull? Does it start immediately, or does it have a slow onset? Does it stop immediately after your run or continue? Does it prevent you from being able to turn your head or limit any mobility?

Has anybody watched you jog? If possible, get an experienced runner to check out your posture. I would lay odds that you are simply clenching your shoulders and neck. Also, if you self-report high tension in your shoulders, get some professional massage therapy for immediate relief or consult a PT for longer-term treatment.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding the having someone watch you run. If you don't know any runners, try looking for a local track club or even a running shoe store.
posted by tommasz at 8:33 AM on October 29, 2011

Are you wearing a good quality sports bra? I get the same thing if I wear cheapo sports bras, even if I'm not jogging. I think it's somehow because they put just enough pressure on the muscles between my shoulders and neck. I also carry my stress tension in that area.
posted by vytae at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2011

Do you have an excessive degree of forward-head posture? Neck misalignment is a symptom of the incredibly common syndrome called computer guy posture, which is very easy to self-diagnose and correct through posture habituation, regular stretching and strength training.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:59 AM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Do you have long hair? Do you put it back in a ponytail or bun when you jog?
posted by KathrynT at 9:41 AM on October 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. I went for a run just now and tried to notice what was going on... a dull pain, that starts gradually, and is in the muscles. Probably caused by tension building up from (whatever I'm doing wrong when I'm running). Maybe I'm unconsciously clenching my muscles there? It gives me a bit of a headache and I can feel it (strangely) in my teeth/jaw. I should try massage, yes. And that's a good suggestion about having someone watch me when I run.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2011

A good technique for relieving upper-body tension in these situations is to consciously drop your shoulders. It's pretty much impossible to maintain tension across your neck when you're pushing your shoulders down.
posted by rhizome at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2011

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