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Why Exercise is Making Your Neck Pain Worse


Filed Under (Fitness, Neck Injury, Neck Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 31-05-2012

It is neck pain week with the release of Neck Pain Solved.

I am in a top secret location.

This morning I left my top secret location (hotel) for some coffee.  I had to settle on gas station coffee as that is all that was open (it was okay).

When I came back to my top secret  location, all the doors were locked.

I was locked out!

It brought back memories of when I got locked into my hotel room in Bolivia, but that is another story.

I tried everything to get back in.  I was just about to climb up a wall to a second floor window when I found “THE BAT PHONE.”  You know, that hidden phone that appears when you need to call the commissioner.  I called the commissioner (night manager) and he let me back into the top secret location (hotel) so I could work on this article in the Bat Cave (lobby).

A very fun way to start the day.

Okay, lets get back to neck pain.

Let’s start with the video.

Why Exercise is Making Your Neck Pain Worse

CLICK HERE to Watch the Video on Why Exercise is Making Your Neck Pain Worse

I was going to leave it with just the video but I got thinking and wanted to add a little more.

A common mistake that people end up doing is performing a whole bunch of exercises for their neck, to alleviate their neck pain and make their neck injury better.  What often ends up happening is they end up flaring things up in their neck, making the pain worse, increasing their symptoms and getting headaches.

This ends up causing your client to believe that their neck pain exercises don’t work or will make them worse, but the exercises are the key to helping them overcome their neck pain and prevent it from coming back again.

Balance Between Too Much and Too Little

Now, there is a fine balance between how much exercise to do and your neck pain.

If you don’t do enough, you are not going to get any benefit.  Very much like walking on a treadmill to lose weight.

When it comes to neck pain, I am very cautious.  I would recommend to err on the side of caution and start off with very light stretching, very controlled movements, very smooth movements, not a long hold for the exercises and not a lot of repetitions for the exercise.

I focus on wanting people to feel that they have done something, not make things worse.

Let me explain.

How Did It Feel?

What I ask my client is how they feel after:

  • the exercise
  • the session (training, appointment or camp)
  • later that day
  • before bed
  • the next morning
  • the next day

I don’t want clients to have an increase in symptoms at any of these stages.  I want them to feel like they have done something.  The muscles should feel like they have been worked and used.

I don’t want the client to have increase in pain, a headache, or migraine.

If this does happen, I need to look at my exercise program to see if an exercise did it, the full effect of the program, something outside of the exercise program, or if there is more going on with their injury.

What to Do About An Increase in Tension?

If they feel they have an increase in tension, I want to give them strategies and exercises that will help when it comes to overcoming the tension.

Strategies and exercises that I focus in on are:

  • decreasing activities that increase the stress on the neck
  • self-massage exercises
  • range of motion exercises
  • thoracic mobility exercises
  • neck stretching exercises
  • tension relieving breathing exercises
I am a huge fan of this.  I want to empower my clients to take ownership of their pain and injuries.  The answers are within them.  I provide a little guidance and help but they are the best doctor, therapist, coach, and trainer.  I try to guide them on a path that will help them overcome their pain and injury, plus give them tools that they can use to prevent the injury and pain from coming back.

 It is Not the Exercises, It is You

This is a hard one for people to admit or see but what we do before and after the neck pain exercises will have an affect on one’s neck pain.

I talked about this in an article about laptops and neck pain.  Now the focus should be tablets and smart phone.

Try to get your clients with neck pain thinking about what they do at home or work that puts undue stress on the neck and is slowing down their recovery.

Here are some things that I highlight:

  • computer station (home or work)
  • laptop use
  • smart phone use
  • driving position
  • if there are any tasks at work that increase stress on the neck
  • reading (bed, couch, table)
  • television watching (home, work, gym)
  • what they do with the phone when on a phone call

I hope this article helped you out on what else could be making your neck pain worse.  If you have some tips and strategies, please do share them below.

If you are looking for an exercise program to help your clients with neck pain, check out Neck Pain Solved:

Rick Kaselj, MS

P.S. – If you want more information on neck pain and injuries, check these out:



Knee Injury and Squatting


Filed Under (Fitness, Neck Injury, Neck Pain, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) by Rick Kaselj on 29-05-2012

Very excited for this week.

Lots of great stuff coming up.

For starters, Spinal Health & Core Training is finally here.

This weekend I am off to Edmonton to present with Tony Gentilcore, Dean Somerset and Dr. Jeff Cubos. We are going to be covering every aspect of spinal health and core training. Tony has performance, Dean has fitness, Jeff has assessment and I have rehab. It is going to be great.  It is going to be a lot of fun meet trainers and coaches from Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Newfoundland, Oakland, and Boston.

I don’t have a video clip from Edmonton but I have one from a presentation that I did last month in Windsor called Optimal Injury Recovery:

CLICK HERE to watch the Knee Injury and Squatting video

Another project that I am working on this week is a neck pain exercise program.

It has been great to get this done.

I have been planning on putting a program together for this for some time.  Over the last few weeks it has been fun looking back at all the exercises that I use, looking to see if there are some new ones out there, and seeing what the research says.

I know the program will help a lot of people as I just got a FB message for some neck pain exercises:

It will be great to refer people to the program and help them out just like the Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome exercises helped out Travis:

Hello Rick,

I have purchased your Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Solution
and I’m loving it.

It’s changing my gait in positive way. i.e. Feet are turning more
in and I’m more on the outside of the feet as I have flat feet.

And less knee pain and that’s only after a very short period
of time.

Kindest regards,


So happy that I could help, Travis.

That is it for today.

I am off to do a few assessments, then head to the gym to take photos and videos for the neck pain program.  I have already got 58 exercises into the program.

Oh ya, the neck pain program will be coming out tomorrow. Watch for the email!

Rick Kaselj, MS



Neck Rehab Exercise


Filed Under (Fitness, Neck Injury, Neck Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 20-07-2011

Today is a neck rehab exercise.



Purpose: To maintain and improve the range of motion in the neck and also to inform the body that it is safe to rotate the neck.
Starting Position: In a sitting position with your upper body and neck in good alignment. Hands are resting on your thighs in order to take the load off of your shoulders and neck.
How to Do the Exercise:
  1. In a slow and controlled manner, rotate the head to one side.
  2. Rotate to a point where you feel resistance but are still pain free.
  3. Hold the end position for 2  seconds.
  4. Rotate back to the start.
  5. Then rotate to the other side.
  6. Perform this exercise 5 times on each side.
Progressions: You can progress the exercise by performing the movement against resistance.  For example against resistive tubing.
Contraindication & Common Mistakes: Too strong of a stretch – more is not better.  If you have too strong of a stretch, you increase the risk of irritation.  The stretch should be light.

Too fast of a movement – This could lead to tightening up of the muscles in order for the body to guard or protect the neck.



Read the rest of this entry »

Posture and Scapular Muscles


Filed Under (Fitness, Neck Pain, Scapular Stabilization, Shoulder Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 26-09-2010

I just finished off my review of last weeks journals.  I have chatted about what I do in a previous post.  I talk about it in my 6 Must Read Journals for Exercise and Injuries .

I came across two articles that are great and will be helpful when it comes to neck pain, shoulder pain, scapular stabilization and poor posture.

Lets get to the two articles.

Can Head Posture Affects Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain and Scapular Muscles?

In this research they assessed the effects of forward head posture in a sitting position on the activity of the scapular upward rotators during loaded isometric shoulder flexion in the sagittal plane.

Three Keys I Got Out of This Articles:

#1 – With forward head posture there increase in EMG (muscle activity) activity in the upper trapezius and lower trapezius and a decrease EMG activity in the serratus anterior during loaded isometric shoulder flexion.

#2 – Forward head posture may contribute to neck and shoulder pain during loaded shoulder flexion in sitting.  This can be an issue for all of us.  Poor head posture could be lead to neck pain and shoulder pain when driving, working and being at our computers.

#3 – Neutral head position is advantageous in reducing upper and lower trapezius activity and enhancing serratus anterior activity as compared with forward head posture during loaded shoulder flexion

Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise Rehabilitation of the Neck


Filed Under (Exercise Rehabilitation, Fitness, Fitness Education, Neck Injury, Neck Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 26-08-2010

Exercise Rehabilitation of the Neck


Your neck is the most used joint in your body.  It becomes most evident when it is injured.  Poor posture and awkward sleeping can lead to neck strains while motor vehicle accidents can lead to disc herniations, whiplash and cervical fusion.  In the Exercise Rehabilitation of the Neck course you will learn the key structures of the neck, assess exercise readiness and effective exercises to recover from neck injuries.



– The key structures involved in neck
– Assessing the neck to determine exercise readiness and progressions
- The four most common neck injuries – cervical strain, disc herniation, whiplash and cervical fusion
– Rehabilitation exercise and contraindications for the four most common neck injuries will be discussed, demonstrated and practiced.


Highlights of Training a Client with a Concussion


Filed Under (Chronic Conditions, Exercise Rehabilitation, Fitness, Neck Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 13-01-2010

I saw my concussion client again today.

( This is a follow up on the blog post:  4 Tips to Training a Client with a Concussion )

I got to give him huge credit.

He was not pushed or forced to come see me.  He took the initiative to start exercising as he has been sitting at home for months.  He started feeling the weight packing on and he new he needed to get moving in order to get better.

What a champion!

5 Highlights of Training a Client with a Concussion

Read the rest of this entry »

If Your Client Has Neck Pain, Why they Should Never Use a Laptop?


Filed Under (Health, Neck Pain) by Rick Kaselj on 14-04-2009

Walking Around & Thinking About Neck Pain

It was Monday afternoon and I am outside walking with my son and dog while listening to the upcoming Exercise and Scoliosis CD. I was making my notes on the interview with Dr. Will Kalla. He commented that if university students who have scoliosis continue to have poor posture while studying and doing computer work, the poor posture will make their scoliosis worse.

It got me thinking about computers and laptops.

laptop neck pain

In the 90s, there was a huge push to redesign one’s desktop computer workstation in order to decrease carpal tunnel syndrome. There has been very little talk or information on how laptops affect the body. With laptop use on the rise, I could not find the number but I am sure it is 60% or more. I know in my house we have two laptops and one desktops. Some universities are reporting 85% laptop use by students.

While my son was having a nap, I decided to do a little research to see if there has been much research on laptops and posture. I was blown away to see that the only one I could find was from 1997. If you know of something more recent, please post a comment below.

Do you remember how big and heavy a laptop was in 1997?

Have you seen how small the laptops are that university students are using?

There may not be much research but the research got me thinking about my clients with neck pain.

I want to give you what you need to know specially for those who are using laptops who have greater neck flexion and head tilt than those who are using a desktop computer.

Greater Neck Flexion

Look at the muscle of the neck. They are small. With greater neck flexion or bringing your chest closer to your chin, more load it put on these muscles. If the muscles can’t hold the load then the force gets put on the ligaments and other non-contractile tissues of the neck. If you have injured your neck, you don’t need more force put on it.

Greater Head Tilt

When using a laptop, you get greater movement at the top of your cervical spine or neck. This great tilt leads to more load on the spine. Once again, if you have a neck injury, you don’t need to be putting more load or force on it.

The take home message, if you have a laptop and neck pain, don’t use it in your lap. Using a laptop leads to more head tip and neck flexion. This puts more force or load on your neck. An increase in force on your injuried neck will keep things irritated and slows down your clients’ recovery from a neck injury. When you are talking with your client and asking them what they do, make sure you ask if they use a laptop if they have a neck injury.

Enough reading and typing. My son is already awake. I got to get back into the sun.

Feel free to comment on this blog post. Add a research that you know about or add your own stories.

If you want to learn simple step-by-step guide that will finally end your neck pain, then check out the Neck Pain Solved program here:


Thank you for reading.

Rick Kaselj, MS

Reference: A comparison of the postures assumed when using laptop computers and desktop computers. Straker L, Jones KJ, Miller J. Appl Ergon. 1997 Aug;28(4):263-8.