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How To Relieve Neck Pain After Workouts

  • 7 min read

If you push yourself in the gym, you’re no doubt going to develop some degree of soreness. That is completely normal - even when training the neck muscles. But, it’s important to distinguish between general muscle pain and soreness and pain associated with an injury. You can work through some pain and soreness. But if an actual injury is the culprit of your pain, you’ll need to take time off and seek more professional medical treatment. And, in either scenario, you are probably wondering how to relieve neck pain after workouts.

Today, we’re going to cover all this and more. We’ll go over some general information on neck pain from your workouts, including how to distinguish between general muscle soreness and pain from a more serious injury. Then, we’ll share some of our best advice for eliminating that pain and soreness - whatever it is caused by. First things first - is it normal for you to experience neck pain as a result of working out? Let’s discuss.

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

One of the most common questions we see new athletes and seasoned gym rats alike asking is - should my neck hurt after working out? And unfortunately, the answer is not one size fits all. To help you determine whether your pain is cause for concern, let’s ask you a simple question:

Did you actually train your neck - or is there really no reason for your neck to be hurting? If you were performing neck strengthening exercises, you will definitely experience some degree of muscle soreness - that is totally normal for those who undertake neck training. We’ll talk more about DOMS as it is called later on. 

But, if you were doing deadlifts, squats, or some other movement that should, in theory, not hurt your neck, it’s possible you tweaked something in your exercises. This is not normal - but may not be cause for concern just yet. With all this said, let’s talk about the difference between muscle soreness and pain - and how you can determine if there is reason for concern or not.

The Difference Between Soreness & Pain (How To Tell If You’ve Injured Yourself)

It’s much easier to determine if the manner in which your neck hurts altering workout is “normal” if you can differentiate between general muscles soreness and pain. 

When we talk about general muscle soreness, what we’re actually referring to is DOMS - or, delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the feeling you get in your muscles after a really good workout. While your muscles might feel tired and burning during the workout, those sensations transform into amore dull, aching, tender, and tight feeling after the workout. This feeling can start within a few hours of your workout and may last for a few days after your workout. DOMS is no real cause of concern.

Pain from an injury will feel much different than DOMS. The pain will typically be felt immediately after the cause. Say you used improper form when performing shrugs and pinched a muscle or nerve in your neck - you’ll feel it right away. And the pain will be far more intense. If you experience sharp, stabbing pain that is acute - it’s more likely an injury than DOMS. Aside from the type of pain and looking for causation, there are a few other ways to differentiate between DOMS and injury-related pain:

  • When do you feel the pain? If it persists at all time, it is an injury. If you only feel it when moving around or touching the muscle themselves, it’s more likely DOMS
  • How long does it last? DOMS subsides after a few days - whereas an injury may not improve after a few days.
  • Is there swelling or bruising? DOMS presents no visible or palpable signs. Injuries like muscle tears or impingements may produce swelling or bruising
  • Do you experience pain in one centralized spot? It is probably an injury (just in one trap, one bicep, one quad, etc.). Because you work out in a symmetrical manner, DOMS will persist in both sides of your body (both traps, both biceps, both quads, etc.)

Now, with all this said - if you believe you’ve developed an injury, our advice is to seek out proper medical care. You can see your general practitioner or meet with a chiropractor or physical therapist. However, if you believe your pain is the result of DOMS - keep reading. Or, learn more about the causes of neck pain in our blog.

How Long Does Neck Pain Last After Workouts?

So, how long does neck pain last after workouts if it’s the result of DOMS? This will vary greatly depending on a few different factors. If you’re performing new movements, the muscles will be taxed in a way they’re not familiar with. This will cause more severe DOMS which can last longer. This is even more true if you’re new to training the neck. Your first few neck workouts you may feel severe DOMS - but as you train the neck more and more, you experience less severe DOMS and for shorter durations.

Another determining factor is how you recover from workouts. If your diet is on point and you get ample protein, your muscles will repair much faster. The same is true of your sleep schedule - if you get a full 7-9 hours every night, your road to recover is fast than if you just get a few hours of sleep.

Other factors include your genetics and the recovery habits you employ - such as soft tissue work, mobility exercises, and other pain relief measures. If you want to learn how to relieve neck pain after workouts fast, keep reading - we’ll share some of our favorite tactics.

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

Ready to learn how to relieve neck pain after workouts? There are quite a few ways you can go about it. We’ll talk about dialing in your recovery efforts and some pain relief techniques you can employee as well. Keep in mind - much of this advice is for those who are suffering from DOMS - not an injury. Again, it’s important for you to seek qualified medical advice if you suspect you’ve developed an injury from your workout. With that said, much of this advice can help you recover from slight tweaks here and there, too.

Start With Rest

First things first - give your body time to heal after your workout. The last thing you want to do is end up overtraining. The risk of injury skyrockets the more underreported you are. We always get asked how often to do neck training. It depends on how intensive your neck workouts are (both volume and intensity). If you do just one light 3x10 exercise per workout, you can just take a day off between workouts. 

However, if you are truly training your neck for strength and size, you’ll want to load up on the volume and intensity - going heavier and implementing more exercises/working sets. In this case, you’ll want a good 48-72 hours of rest between workouts. Now, you can still workout the rest of your body - just be sure to give those delicate neck muscles a break. And, shoot for 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is where your body truly recovers.

With all this said, getting ample rest between workouts is important to relieving DOMS. If your still sore by your next neck workout, something with your training or recovery may be wrong.

Increase Blood Circulation To The Muscles By Stretching

We know we just told you to rest. And it’s true - rest is important. However, getting blood flowing to the muscles is perhaps one of the greatest ways to relieve any type of pain. This is true of DOMS and pain from neck injuries. To get the blood flowing while still ensuring you get your rest, take daily walks. Or, add some neck stretching after your workouts to help loosen up those tight muscles and get blood to them. This blood flow will also help ensure vital nutrients are brought to your neck muscles where they’re needed most, while helping flush out toxins like lactic acid. You can learn more about how to loosen a stiff neck in our blog.

Deep Tissue Work 

Whether you see a massage therapist or you use a lacrosse ball - deep tissue work is a great way to speed up your recovery process and eliminate tight, painful muscles. Massage therapists are definitely the preferred option. But, they’re expensive. And sometimes you need immediate relief. In this case, you can pin a lacrosse ball between your tight neck muscles and the wall. Find the spot it hurts most, and pin the muscle down and sit there applying pressure to the ball. Lean into the pain. Eventually, the muscle will release. You’ll feel this happen as the area becomes suddenly less painful and very warm.

You can also try doing manual deep tissue work on yourself using your own hand. If you can reach the spot on your neck that is the most sore, grab some CBD balm or some other anti-inflammatory cream and massage the area. Look up techniques online to get the muscle to release - you want to be careful when working on your own neck.

Factor In Your Food

When it comes to fast recovery, diet is everything. Protein is the main nutrient you’ll need to help you muscles recover fast and say goodbye to DOMS. However, it’s not all about protein - it’s about eating enough food in general. To recover from your workouts you should be in a caloric surplus. This means you eat more calories than you expend every day. 

Furthermore, there are foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties which can help you eliminate inflammatory pain associated with your workouts. Some foods to consider adding to your diet include: 

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Fatty fish
  • Berries
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes

Consider NSAIDs As A Last Resort

For muscle soreness, we generally don’t recommend taking over the counter pain medication like NSAIDs. With that said, you can use these as a last resort if you have severe DOMS that would otherwise prevent you from going about your day. This is a good option for those who are incredibly sore but work a physically demanding job. But, if you’re just trying to avoid the soreness after your workout - save the NSAIDs for another time.

Final Thoughts On How To Relieve Neck Pain After Workouts

Well, there you have it. You now know how to relieve neck pain after workouts. And, you know how to differentiate between muscle soreness and more serious pain from an injury. 

If you want to take your neck workouts to the next level, be sure you’re using the right neck workout equipment - such as a quality neck weight harness,  resistance band door anchor, and resistance loop bands. Or, for the most sophisticated neck training tool out there, stick with the Iron Neck. This revolutionary device makes neck training more efficient and effective than anything else on the market. Unlock 360-degree training and a wide array of exercises that would otherwise be off limits!