neck strain

General discussions about getting and staying fit that don't relate directly to your indoor rower

neck strain

Postby andrea » March 29th, 2018, 2:02 pm


I just started a few days ago on a model D rower, and wondered if anyone has experienced the below or has any advice.

Having watched the technique videos and practised the moves, checked by someone else, I have been rowing only very gently, with the damper on 1, starting with just 5-10 minutes. After each of these few short sessions I felt as if I had strained my neck though (trapezius muscles?), lasting for several hours (I waited until my neck felt normal again before trying again next day or day after).
I am 50, cycle (on an upright bike) and do ballet, so have been paying attention to my posture and am not hunching shoulders or craning my neck. Strangely have never felt this strain when rowing on water for hours (in a big old rowboat, not a racing boat) and don't think I have any neck issues.

Is this normal at the start and can it be overcome by building up very slowly (definitely have much less upper than lower body strength, which was one of the reasons to try rowing) and/or making changes to my technique, or should I stop and ask e.g. a physio?

Thanks very much in advance

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Re: neck strain

Postby Citroen » March 29th, 2018, 7:20 pm

Drop the damper lever down to 5 and learn to drive with your legs rather than hauling anchor with your arms/upper body.
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Re: neck strain

Postby MassiF » March 30th, 2018, 2:30 am

I experienced the same when I started: to me the fix was not to look constantly at the monitor. Now I only have a look every 30seconds or so and it’s just fine
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Re: neck strain

Postby Ombrax » March 30th, 2018, 2:51 am

Citroen wrote:Drop the damper lever down to 5 and learn to drive with your legs rather than hauling anchor with your arms/upper body.

OP says that the damper lever's already on 1


I'm no expert, but I agree that the issue may well be due to where you're looking.

Sometime I find myself looking down at the catch - be sure you're aware of what your head is doing and be sure that you keep it in a "natural" position throughout the rowing motion.

Don't wait too long before you see a doc or PT.

Good Luck :)
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Re: neck strain

Postby jamesg » March 30th, 2018, 3:55 am

On the erg we go backwards and forwards, taking our heads with us. This means there are inertial forces, carried by the neck. Newton says inertial forces are proportional to the acceleration and to the mass accelerated. The head is heavy, about 5kg I'd guess.

10 minutes at rating 20 and we've accelerated our head back and forth 200 times each. The first time can be quite a surprise. I first noticed it when I raced a 500m at about rating 35.

Remedies: keep the rating down and don't use high acceleration; use slides, a dynamic or a boat. An "old rowboat" presumably is fixed seat, so speeds and forces generated will be low. On water and slides it's the boat or machine that changes speed, not us, since neither are tied to the earth's inertial system, at least horizontally. Looking slightly down can help too.

It won't take long to develop the necessary muscle, just like all the others we use, so we can see it as part of training. Like all training, this too must be considered with favor. No one wants neck muscles that can't withstand the normal acceleration or braking forces in a car. Headrests protect us when rammed from the rear, when the acceleration caused can be far higher.
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Re: neck strain

Postby andrea » March 30th, 2018, 11:59 am

Thanks everyone for the fast and helpful replies!
Good point about the monitor - you involuntarily fix on it and and not doing that today did seem to help a bit.
I'll carry on carefully and hopefully it will improve as my muscles get stronger.

Thanks again

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Re: neck strain

Postby JackB » April 5th, 2018, 10:11 pm

Check out the Physicaltherapyvideo YouTube videos. Bob and Brad, the therapists, post a video everyday. I'm sure they have some for neck issues.
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