Runners expect a degree of soreness in the legs after a workout. In fact, they often enjoy the soreness as a "badge of honor" signifying a difficult but successful workout. However, it's also possible to experience soreness in the neck after running. Though not necessarily an emergency, it's usually a sign of poor form during your workout.
Running bounces your body up and down through the course of a workout. If your body is properly aligned, the natural structure of your skeleton supports this bouncing and you will experience few problems. If your head is hanging forward, however, the bouncing of your relatively heavy head will put strain on your neck. That muscle strain can result in soreness.
For minor cases of neck pain from exercise, including from the jostling of a running workout, applying ice as soon as possible after the session will help to alleviate the pain. Ibuprofin or similar anti-inflammatory pain killers will also help, especially in cases of "second-day soreness" that often restrict motion.
Proper alignment is your best defense against a sore neck from running. This means running with your spine relaxed but straight. Your head should be above your shoulders and your shoulders directly above your hips. While running, pay attention to your head and lower back. Tucking your head forward or leaning forward at the lower back are two common ways to disrupt this alignment and cause neck soreness.
Common Sense Caution
A sore neck from muscle strain is a painful but minor injury. However, neck pain is also a sign of more serious conditions. If the pain is sharp, consistent or accompanied by numbness or shooting pains to other parts of your body, you should check with your doctor as soon as possible. Don't go back to running until you've gotten the "go ahead" from a medical professional.
- "The Sports Injury Handbook: Diagnosis and Management"; Christer Rolf; 2010
- "Tai Chi For Busy People"; Dr. Keith Jeffrey; 2003