Walking on a treadmill is one way of keeping up your cardio fitness when your joints prefer the cushioning provided by the exercise equipment -- or when there is stormy weather outside. A treadmill walk offers you the same benefits of an outdoor walk, especially if you adjust the incline to make up for the lower resistance level of the treadmill. Treadmills also offer the option of keeping track of your heart rate, speed and distance. However, improper exercise technique and posture can lead you to develop a sore neck when using the treadmill.
Maintaining Good Posture
Proper posture on the treadmill will reduce the amount of strain you place on your neck, as well as make you more efficient at using the treadmill. If you have access to a mirror to use with your treadmill, check regularly that you are maintaining an upright pose, with your head centered above your spine. Press down your shoulders, not letting them rise up towards your ears. As you become tired or bored, your chin may fall towards your chest and your shoulders may rise up, creating tension and strain on your neck. Over an extended period of time, this can lead to neck pain.
Warm Up First
Warming up before any exercise, including using the treadmill, is essential to reducing the risk of injury, such as a sore neck. Before getting on the treadmill, do several gentle stretches with your neck, releasing any slight tension you might hold there. Be sure to warm up with a gentle, slower walk on the treadmill, and maybe some light stretches for your legs and arms to get your blood flowing. Warming up before exercise helps your nerve transmissions go faster and increases the elasticity of your body's tissues, making you less susceptible to accidents or general clumsiness.
Using Proper Technique
The right treadmill technique is important, regardless of whether you walk or run on it. Maintaining balance and a smooth, steady rhythm is essential to avoid tripping. If you use the handrails of the treadmill too often, this can lead to upper body tension, including in your neck. If possible, avoid using the treadmill rails and keep your elbows gently bent and along the sides of your body. Let your arms swing naturally as you walk and remember to breathe regularly as you exercise.
While you might think of treadmill walking as a gentle exercise, it is still a cardio activity that requires physical exertion, meaning you need to stay hydrated and cool down properly. Staying properly hydrated before, during and after treadmill walking is important, as dehydration can lead to a headache, increasing tension in the area, including your neck. Drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water each day, and more after physical activity and if you are in a warm climate.
After Your Workout
Cooling down after walking on the treadmill is just as important as warming up before your workout. Do gentle neck stretches to release tension in the area after your workout. Do not stop your treadmill walk abruptly -- slow down to a stop -- as not cooling down can lead to dizziness and tense or sore muscles. If your neck pain is persistent or your feel sore all over, consider visiting a massage therapist who can break up knots in your neck. Massages can help you recover 50 percent faster after a hard workout.