Because a neck injury can make every move an ordeal, playing tennis with neck pain usually is near impossible. Dr. D.J. Kennedy, a rehabilitation specialist in Gainesville, FL, suggests that the best way to prevent neck injuries is by doing core training and upper-body stretching, the usual strengthening methods, to maintain total body fitness.
"If you are not especially flexible, you need to stretch," Dr. Kennedy says. "And if you have a weakness in the back, shoulder or core, you have to strengthen that area as much as you can. Strength in surrounding areas will in turn keep the neck strong and pain-free."
The good news is that there are easy exercises that may help treat and prevent neck related pain, regardless of the pain generator. Dr. Kennedy recommends the following trio of helpful moves. (Illustration by Son of Alan.)
Elbows in Back Pockets: While standing, pull your shoulders and arms back in a motion as if you are trying to put your elbows into your back pockets. This will help put your shoulders and neck in optimal position. Work up to several holds of 30 seconds each day. (Illustration by Son of Alan.)
Chin Tuck: This will open up your neck and place it in correct position. Do while standing and try working up to 60-second intervals several times daily. (Illustration by Son of Alan.)
Isometric Neck Strengthening: Ideally done while lying down on your back. First do a chin tuck, then lift your head off the bed while maintaining the tuck. This can also be done with the head rotated to either side. Remember to maintain the chin tuck. Try to do this once or twice daily for at least 10 seconds in every direction. (Illustration by Son of Alan.)