CrossFit Injuries: Neck Pain
Neck Pain & CrossFit
Neck pain is one of the most common symptoms we treat in CrossFit athletes. The cervical spine (neck) is the most mobile section of the spine, which also makes it one of the most easily injured. It is comprised of seven small bones (vertebra), as well as intervertebral discs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A strain is an injury that affects the muscles and tendons, while a sprain affects the ligaments and joint capsules. Both are considered soft tissue injuries and often occur at the same time. A disc herniation affects the intervertebral discs as well as the nerve root as it leaves the spinal canal.
Causes of Neck Pain
A sprain/strain is often caused by over-stretching the neck. This can result from something as subtle as sleeping in an awkward position or sitting with poor posture for a prolonged time. Most commonly with CrossFit athletes, symptoms arise following a workout involving overhead movements or handstand push-ups. The most common symptoms are neck pain, stiffness, and tension or spasm of the muscles on one or both sides of the neck.
A disc herniation is often caused by flexion and compression of the neck. This can occur with traumatic injuries such as an auto accident or repetitive use such as poor posture with technology use over years. Improper handstand push-ups with too much stress on the neck most commonly lead to this type of injury with CrossFit athletes.
Following a neck injury, muscles in the neck become tight or spasm to guard the affected area. This limits motion and protects against further injury. It is important to safely alleviate muscle tension and restore mobility to help speed the healing process.
Prevention & Self Treatment
Proper technique and posture will decrease the risk of neck pain due to a sprain/strain or disc injury. Technique is especially important with handstand push-ups. When the cervical spine is in a neutral position, it absorbs force through muscle tension. With even slight flexion, the normal curvature is eliminated. The ligaments and muscles can no longer absorb force in a flexed position. This results in a lot of impact to the vertebrae and discs rather than the surrounding supporting structures. When the disc absorbs these forces it can often lead to a disc herniation, especially if done repeatedly.
Proper cool down and recovery after workouts also plays an important role in avoiding any neck-related sports injury. Stretching and gentle lacrosse ball massage can help prevent sore neck muscles from becoming continuously over-stressed in repetitive CrossFit WODs. Occasional maintenance visits to your sports chiropractor to make sure your cervical and thoracic spine are moving well and muscles are functioning properly are a great way to catch minor issues early and prevent potential injuries from occurring. Kinesio-taping can also be beneficial for posture feedback, just make sure you follow an appropriate set of instructions. Here’s a good starting point, RockTape applications for the neck and upper back.
You can also find most of our preferred neck and posture exercises on our YouTube channel, with new content being added all the time.
Sports Chiropractic & Neck Pain
If you injure your neck during a workout, get treated sooner rather than later! Far too often patients come to us after suffering several weeks 0r even months with neck pain. Frequently, it is a relatively simple fix that could have been corrected much sooner. Don’t let neck pain affect or limit your performance!
On your first sports chiropractic visit, we will fully assess your neck movement and function. Several orthopedic tests will also be performed to evaluate the need any diagnostic imaging. Once we properly diagnose your injury, we will start a targeted sports chiropractic treatment plan. Our treatments methods include several soft tissue and spine techniques in addition to manipulation. McKenzie Method is an advanced assessment, classification, treatment, and prevention protocol for injuries of the spine. Soft tissue treatments, such as Graston Technique or myofascial release, help reduce muscle tension and spasm and improve range of motion.
We will also prescribe individual, specific corrective exercises for you to perform at home to speed your recovery. This WILL require homework from you! We encourage a team approach to treatment at Elite Sport & Spine. We are not here just to fix you, we want to educate you on why this injury occurred and give you the information you need to keep it from happening again!
This article is part of a series looking at common CrossFit and lifting injuries, how to prevent them, and how to treat them if they do occur. We’ll cover the following injuries: