How I Hurt My Neck While Doing Core Exercises

With summer just around the corner, I, along with many others, have been thinking about that toned abdominal section and beach body.  In late April I decided it was time to actively strengthen my core with Pilates.  I must admit that I've always had a weak core yet have done little about it.  While at the gym, I find myself performing movements that I'm really good at, and leaving out the movements and exercises that were hard.  This year I was to finally do as I preach and start focusing on my weaknesses.  I started off performing many movements that I normally prescribe, like the bird dog or dead bug.  Once I progressed with the stabilization exercises, I decided to follow a Pilates website called  When I first heard about this and watched one of the videos, I was a little put off.  Her voice and peppiness was not what I was used to. I thought, "This isn't a workout!" When I realized how hard the movements were and how she was able to still talk and do the movements at the same time, I had to give her props.  After 2 months of following the videos, I figured I was doing well and that I needed to step things up.  Last week I decided to do 3 core videos in a row to really get me into shape.

I was doing everything I should have, engaging my core, keeping my chin tucked and shoulders back.  Somewhere down the line, I must have gotten really tired and started sticking my neck forward.  Right after I finished the workout I could barely move my neck. My sternocleidomastoid, and upper fiber trapezius muscles were strained.  I was turning my whole body when someone called. Even my patients were wondering why I looked so stiff and awkward.  By the end of the day my neck was incredibly tight, stiff and very tired. 


This is what I looked at the beginning of the workout...



... and as I got tired, this is probably what I looked like at the end.


I treated my neck strain like any other muscle strain.  I rested my neck when I wasn't working, I iced it for 15 minutes several times a day but I didn't compress and elevate ;) It took several days for the tension to decrease and by that time I was using heat to help relax the muscles.  Luckily while working at a physiotherapy clinic I was fortunate to have my colleague perform a few adjustments to my thoracic spine.  Normally just rolling out my mid back with the foam roller would do the trick but because my back was so stiff, I needed extra help.  I has been 1 week since I strained my neck perfoming those core exercises and now my neck is back to normal.

I've slowly reintegrated the exercises back into my routine and no problems since.  I now know to keep focus on my form and not to cheat!  Cheating does nothing for you but leads to more problems.  To everyone out there doing core exercises, keep that chin tucked in, roll your shoulders back, and maintain neutral pelvis.  If your form starts to go, take a break or modify the movement.

All right, time for me to hit the mat!


Jessie Wong, Physiotherapist from the Physio Room