Imagine supporting the weight equivalent of a ten-pound bowling ball while diving to make a game-saving tackle. This is essentially the job your neck has if you happen to play sports, either professionally or casually. Since direct or indirect blows to the neck, shoulders, and head can cause more than an occasional pain in the neck, it’s wise to consider some ways to prevent – or at least minimize – neck pain while playing sports.
Do a Proper Warm-Up
As a Beverly Hills spine surgery center, we always recommend that our clients do a proper warm-up prior to engaging in sports. The muscles and ligaments in the neck require a little preparation before you get your game on. Take some time, usually a good 10-15 minutes worth of stretching will do, to properly stretch your neck muscles. Some neck warm-ups include:
- Circular motions of the head (helps with flexibility)
- Shoulder rotations (strengthens supporting muscles)
- Chin tucks (helps build neck strength)
Wear Protective Gear
While it may seem like a nuisance to put on a helmet when you’re playing a casual game with friends, wearing protective headgear can mean the difference between neck pain that will go away with a little rest and a serious injury. Make sure that any helmet you wear fits properly, meaning it has a strap that fits snugly and there’s not a lot of excess headroom.
Pay Attention to Any Post-Game Pain
Sometimes neck-related pain can be felt in the shoulders or upper back, so it’s important to pay attention to any post-game aches and pains. Pay particular attention to the following symptoms after a game:
- Pain that worsens with normal neck movements
- Neck spasms (bursts of pain usually caused by overused muscles)
- Shooting pain (may go from the neck to the shoulders or arms)
- Neck pain that becomes progressively worse over time
Some soreness following sports commonly associated with neck injuries or pain, including football, diving, cycling and skiing, is normal. However, it’s best to err on the side of caution. As a general rule, any post-game neck pain that seems unusual, you were wearing protective gear, should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
Most neck related pain will subside with proper rest and relaxation, however if you feel that you are living with chronic neck pain, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a spine specialist to go over your treatment options. Call (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae, a trusted and professional conservative spine surgeon serving individuals throughout the Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and greater Los Angeles area.