A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of seeing one of my favourite bands Fozzy play in Cambridge. Not only did I get to meet the guys beforehand but I was then able to stand right at the front at the barricade for the actual show with a un-obstructred perfect view (I thought).
At this point the first support act called “Sumo Cyco” (No I didn’t understand it either) had come on and were trying very hard to get people pumped for the show, and it was roughly halfway through their set that as I was watching them I began to notice this tight pulling feeling in my neck which was slowly becoming more and more obvious.
I should state at this point that I had done NO HEADBANGING AT ALL and was just watching the music and taking it all in, but this neck tightness was continuing to go on and at this point I was worried it might ruin the gig for me.
So why had I developed this neck pain?
Well the main reason for this was because I had spent 20-30 minutes continuously looking up, which my neck was not ready for.
As any concert go-er will tell you, the stage is pretty much always higher than those standing or sitting at ground level, so if you are at the ground level you will have to spend most of the concert looking up, which could be 2 hours or more.
Now of course the amount someone has to look up and bend their head back will vary depending on a variety of factors such as; their height, the stage height, how far they are standing back from the stage etc.
But the problem is most of us don’t spend a lot of our time looking up (unless you have a job where you spend long hours looking up), instead we spend more of our time looking down as most things we look at or read are at or below our line of vision e.g. keyboard, plates of food, newspaper, phones etc.
So what does this mean?
Well the muscles that run along the back of your neck are the ones that contract to allow you to tilt your head back and look up, the problem is like any muscle if they don’t do their job a lot then they are going to become weaker, and if we spend all day looking down then they are more likely to stretch out over time as our body will always adapt to our most frequent positions.
So how does this lead to neck tightness at gigs?
Well if you continuously look up for a long period of time at a gig you are then asking those muscles on the back of your neck to contract and hold that contraction for a long time. You know the same muscles that you don’t use that much and have become weak and possibly stretched out from looking at your phone all day. So in turn by asking those weak and stretched muscles to contract for a long while and allow you to keep your head tilting back they will become tight because they are being asked to do something which they don’t normally do, and as a result will basically go into cramp.
Imagine if you had really weak arm muscles, if I then asked you to do 100 press ups in a row you would probably find that after a few press ups your arms would begin to feel really tight and sore as you are asking those muscles to do things they physically can’t achieve, and as you went on that cramp and soreness feeling would continue to get worse. Well it’s the same thing for those muscles on the back of your neck.
So what do I do about it?
Well there are a few things you can do mid-gig to alleviate or even resolve the problem which allowed me to enjoy the show pain free;
- Move your head around, whether that’s looking around the stage, nodding along to the music or full on headbanging (although not excessively), anything that gets your head and neck out of the static contracted position. There is a great saying in healthcare at the moment that MOTION IS LOTION and this cannot be more true here. By moving your head around regularly it gives those muscles on the back of your neck time to rest, meaning they don’t have to work as hard and as a result get less tight.
- Give yourself a self neck massage for a few seconds, the old idea of rubbing it better here, it doesn’t need to be anything special or specific, just a couple of fingers or a thumb pressing in and around the tight part of your neck. Now it won’t change the underlying physiology and properties of your neck muscles in any way, but it will at least give you some relief for hopefully enough time to enjoy the show.
- Get into a position where you are having to look up less. If the above don’t work then you may have to change where or how you are standing so that you can enjoy the show without your neck tightness continuing to get worse, it may take a bit of experimenting through a few songs but hopefully you should be able to find a place that is more comfortable.
What can I do if it becomes sore after the show?
This is likely delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS for the gym buffs) and just like your legs get it after an intense workout, the muscles on the back of your neck will get it as well if they’ve been working hard for those 2+ hours allowing you to look up and watch the show. The good news is that this should gradually go away over a couple of days, but there are a few things you can do to make it more bearable;
- Try placing heat or ice over the tight areas for 10-15 mins every 1-2 hours. Usually one of these is very helpful for people to help take the edge off, just remember to put some form of cloth or fabric between your neck and the heat/cold source so that it doesn’t get burned.
- As with during the gig you can again try self-massage and gently rubbing over the area for 5-10 minutes which may provide some relief, remember to use some form of moisturising cream or powder to prevent skin friction.
- Avoid any positions that aggravate your neck tightness, it may sound like simple advice but “pushing through the pain” is generally not the best idea.
- Keep your neck moving, again if holding that static position at the concert is what has brought it on then avoiding that and keeping your neck moving should help with relief (remember motion is lotion). Below is a video with some very simple exercises you can do as much as you like to help get your neck moving, just make sure you don’t go into any pain.
Now if your neck pain still continues to persist for more than 4-5 days after the concert or you begin to develop some pain or altered sensations over your arms, face or upper body then you should go and see a healthcare professional immediately.
As for the concert itself I must say it was brilliant.
Now Cambridge isn’t exactly a hub for heavy metal activity on a Wednesday night (far from it), but the guys in Fozzy and Nonpoint still managed to make a crowd of roughly 100 feel like a crowd of 10’000+. Not only did I have a great time but I got to hear some new music which I otherwise wouldn’t have heard, and I would recommend anyone to go see them live (The VIP deal is very good).
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year