Ow, Ow, Ow, My Neck Hurts!

QandA logoI had an Olympic Recurve student complain about her neck being sore after even a short practice session and she asked me what she could do.

Here is my response.

Be aware that the Olympic Recurve style puts considerable stress on one’s neck. To make sure you are putting no more than the minimum required stress on those muscles, you need to include in your awareness as you shoot whether you are adding to additional stress to that minimum. (It is not unusual for us to subconsciously flex muscles receiving attention; this is a normal response.) If you detect you are subconsciously doing that, you need to “train” it out. Training your subconscious is a lot like training a dog. Your dog doesn’t understand the words “bad dog” but it does understand your tone of voice. If you say “bad dog” while smiling and laughing and petting your dog, its tail will wag like crazy. If you say “good dog” in a scolding tone while frowning it will behave submissively. Training your subconscious mind is similar.

If you find your subconscious overusing your neck muscles, you need to stop what you are doing, i.e. you must let down. Corrections must be made in real time, just as is required to train a dog, because if you do not, the dog and your subconscious will have moved on and the correction will not be connected with the act it is supposed to address. So, let down and correct. The correction is in the form of mild disapproval, with maybe a rubbing of the offending muscle to get it to relax. You are saying, gently, “no, not ‘tense,’ but ‘relaxed.’” The emotional state of mild disapproval is sufficient. You do not want to rant and rave and throw your bow, that would not be a proportional response. Basically, if you don’t think your dog would understand, neither would your subconscious mind.

I did check your ability to turn your head toward the target, you have plenty of flexibility, but in Olympic Recurve (not so much in compound styles) one’s head position is near the end of the range of motion for turning your head on your neck, so realize that this strain is there and must be managed. Stretching, turning your head both ways, massaging your neck muscles, all seem to work. (By the way, having a helper for neck stretching is a good idea. By sitting in a chair and having someone gently turn your head, you do not have to flex the neck muscles to do that. You can focus on relaxing the muscles involved.) Even so, many OR competitors report neck strain, probably exacerbated by competition stress (when your focus is elsewhere, e.g. on scoring, other aspects of your awareness dim and drift a little from the norm).

I hope this helps!



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

6 responses to “Ow, Ow, Ow, My Neck Hurts!

  1. This could also be a symptom of using only the upper trapezius muscles (which attach to the spine through the neck area) during the draw, instead of *also* engaging the mid- and lower trapezius muscles, the rhomboids, and the lateral muscles to employ the entire shoulder blade.


  2. George Zimmerman

    I also shoot Olympic recurve, however I have plates in my neck so I have a limited range of motion. I have used two resources to improve my shooting stance. First is the book in titled the Alexander Technique for Archery the other The Franklin Method for releasing the neck. I believe both are available via Amazon. In a nut shell though thinking up and keeping the chin level goes a long way to inhibit the tension tendency in the neck. Finally engage in a good lengthy warm up before shooting. Dynamic as well as static. The static howls should be in end range and while holding end range focus on disengaging the neck muscles. Like in Yoga potions should be held for a good amount of time.


    • We reviewed the Alexander technique book in *Archery Focus*. I will check out the other one. Thanks!

      On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 2:35 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  3. John

    there’s a hyperlink in the title of the article that just leads to the article.


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