Martin Farmer Burns demonstrating his insane neck strength (don't try this at home, kids).

Addressing Neck Pain While Training BJJ

Unless caused by a direct injury, neck pain is often symptomatic of some kind of musculoskeletal imbalance. One of the biggest culprits for those of us who incessantly work at desks is Upper Crossed Syndrome.

With that in mind, I’ve been dealing with neck pain for a good while now. Fighting out of chokes wasn’t my wisest move as a white belt. A major issue for me though is that my pecs are really tight from years of bad posture (writing, playing guitar, too much benching, etc.). This has apparently caused my traps to overcompensate causing significant neck and midback pain including headaches. Here’s what I try to do each and every night:

I start with a Levator Scapulae stretch shown in the following vid @4:40 and often do it throughout the day. Lately, I’ve been winding down at night in a dry sauna for 30-40 minutes and stretching once I’m warm enough.

Then I do 1 of 3 pec stretches. I either find a doorway, begin with my hands outstretched to the top, lean in and slowly work my way down and up again like here:

I may also use a corner in my living room or use my belt adjusting the grip from narrow to wide also. I like using my belt as it allows me to target specific areas in my pecs.

If I have the time and inclination I may also do this 45-minute yoga routine though, lately, I just stretch for maybe 10-15 minutes. The routine is great though and challenging. Yoga is deceptively hard, especially for my disposition. I’d rather run than do yoga haha:

I also really grind out my pecs with a lacrosse ball against the wall or by just applying force while watching a game or something. It’s crazy to feel nerves in my pecs that trigger sensations in my back. Maybe that explains the connection.

Doing this judiciously for the last 4-5 months has seen my ibuprofen use plummet. For a good while I’d have to pop a few to sleep, especially if I lifted or rolled particularly hard. I would just get constant tension headaches. So far this seemingly simple routine has been incredible. I actually sleep through the night again and my neck and back feel a whole lot better.

I hope this helps some. A sports therapist buddy of mine clued me in on tight pecs and upper crossed syndrome and suggested a few things. From there I just went ham trying to explore it as fully as possible. Thankfully, it’s working. I hope it does the same for you. Of course, it goes without saying, that proper diagnosis from a medical pro is always in order.

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