Neck pain in a common issue in modern populations, with the root cause often related to hours on end in a fixed forward head posture. This position leads to a shortening of the extensor muscles at the back of the neck and a weakening of the deep muscles in the front. The result is often pain and discomfort in the neck, sometimes accompanied by headaches.
From a golf perspective, the combination of a forward head position and a tight / weak neck presents a twofold issue for rotation in the backswing. Firstly, the head hanging forward and low inhibits our ability to rotate through our upper back because our spine is being pulled out of the neutral position from where is rotates most efficiently. Secondly, the tight muscles around the neck reduce the ability to rotate in our upper spine, often leading to unwanted head movement away from the ball in the backswing.
If you suffer from a tight neck and would rather play golf without pain and a shortened back swing, then try following the steps outlined below.
Step 1 – Self massage
Grab a spiky ball or similar massage tool, and place it under the ridge of your skull, to either the left of right of the spine. Support the weight of your head with a hand placed behind the head if needed, your neck muscles should be relaxed.
Slowly turn your head from left to right and nod up and down. Maintain a slow rhythm and aim for a deep massage. Every 20 seconds switch the position slightly and repeat until you have covered both sides.
Step 2 – Stretch
Stretch 1 - Nose to armpit. Gently pull your nose down towards your armpit, feeling the stretch in back of your neck. Aim to stand tall throughout stretch, trying not to slump forward. Hold for 30 seconds each side.
Stretch 2 - Ear to Shoulder – Tilt your head to one side, moving ear towards shoulder, feeling stretch down the side of your neck. Add some light pressure to your head with the opposite hand. Hold for 30 seconds each side.
Step 3 – Strengthen deep neck muscles
The muscles responsible for holding your neck and head in good posture are deep in the front of the neck and strengthening them can be tricky. The best method I have used was taught to me by Carolyn Richardson of GravityFit.
Placing a piece of light resistance tubing (or the Gravity Cap) over the crown of your head, aim to push up against the tubing, drawing your spine out of your pelvis and standing stall. Retract your chin and feel the deep muscles in the front of your neck working. Hold for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat.
When performing any of these exercises, stop immediately if you feel dizzy or experience any strong pain.
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