T Nation

Chin-Up Neck Injury


G'day blokes,
A question for those in the know...

Doing chins or pull ups with added weight, I've managed to cause some kind of neck pain, perhaps a pinched nerve or a torn muscle but there's no doubt that towards the end of my set, when straining to get the last rep or two out, I've craned my head and neck forward thereby causing the injury.

The question is; should I stop before getting to this level of strain in order to avoid this injury or is there a position in which to hold the head which alleviates this problem, for example keeping the head down or raising the head to look at the ceiling?

A trainer told me I was going to failure and this was causing my head to strain forward and impinging on my neck area, he said I should stop before getting close to failure.


I use to do a lot of weighted chins and had the same problem. My pain would be in the back of my neck and down between the shoulder blades. I couldn't turn my neck to save my life for the rest of the day when I'd push it too hard.

Leave a little in the tank and you should be fine in the future.



Thanks Fred.


Here I am, sitting with a three-day headache, from doing my chin-ups a few days ago. I had planed to do 25, in three sets to get there, and was doing my last 7, when I saw some younger guys watching me do them. My ego got in the way, and I strained to do 10. I did it, and got back on the floor with a pounding headache, so bad I couldn't finish my workout.

Yeah, still dumb after all these years. I'm 56, and I guess the lesson is you have to listen to your body, not your damn ego. At least for chin-ups, I think your trainer was right, Duke! I must say, I've never had the problem when I do Sternum, or Gironda pullups. You end up in those trying to be parallel to the floor, looking up at the ceiling. You can find it described in one of the training articles. It seems to put most of the stress on the lats, and you might do less of that head straining.


Thanks Alan, good tip, I'll look it up mate.

I tore my lateral delt slightly (I think) doing cleans the other day. I shouldn't have gone as heavy as I did, but ego got me too, the price you pay for getting older but not smarter I guess.

I've taken myself outta the game for a week and just doing cardio now while things recover, hopefully.


Duke, how are ya -
In 2001 I was doing behind the-neck wide-grips pullups after no training for a long period, and without a trainer. I was straining my neck as you do, just like pulling your head forward in the old-style situps. I injured a disc at C5-C6. I also had a posterior cervical bone spur which had already developed from earlier trauma.

I ached and couldn't sleep for 2 weeks, with the exception of a single position for fitful nights. Add to this the fact that I went to a Chiropractor to save money. He made it worse in his routine promotion to get me in for "regular adjustments", while dismissing my specifics and yanking my neck around. I use another man now, who trains with us and who really knows Palmer Chiropractic.

Anyhow, I finally cornered him and asked him if he could or could not rule on a soft tissue injury possibility like mine, and he admitted that he could not. So I said goodbye and got an orthopedic surgeon to fast-track me into the MRI room, which told a more complete story.

One C5-C6 discectomy and fusion later, I was as good as new, less some residual neuropathy regarding the right radial nerve, which primarily serves the top of the arm including the thumb and index finger. I believe that it was a matter of damage from either/or the bulged disc (or a piece of it floating around) the bone spur, and/or the prolonged swelling during the first two weeks of the insult.

I forgot to mention that the swelling was reversed at about week 2 by a Radiologist friend who injected a corticosteroid near the nerve root, with the aid of active xray Fluoroscopy. That was really cool. In past years they guessed, and used a shotgun approach of 3 shots in order to get close enough. Ya just cant beat technology in the right doctor's hands.

Point 1: If you have a neck injury, given that cervical vertebrae are so small and delicate, get the right specialist to use appropriate testing ASAP. Time can be essential in preventing further damage. 6 years later I continue to have trouble from cross-sectional nerve root damage, which probably cannot improve.

It is not debilitating, but I can tell, although other people don't notice anything except a chronic twitch in the top muscle of the forearm.

Point 2: A good trainer, or even a pretty good one, is essntial. I have 4 injuries that could have been avoided, if I had had early training, even obsolete and superceded methods from years ago. Forget the money - it is nothing compared to the alternatives. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Really smart people learn from other peoples mistakes.

I think that there is a wealth of information on this particular website, plus tons of inspiration, whether you can afford a trainer or not.

P.S. Remember that connective tissue grows at a significantly slower rate than muscle. So when you get pumped and you're rockin' and lovin' this game, watch out for connective tissue injury, which will put you out of the game for up to 6 months, and you lose ALL of the gains. Rule 1: Don't get hurt. Rule 2: Perfect form. Rule 3: Good lighting is very important :slight_smile:
Come on by the Roanoke Athletic Club someday and we'll have a yarn, hey?
FizzEd ">


That's some scary info there mate, but valuable nonetheless, thanks very much for sharing that.

I suffer from sinusitis which, in my own humble opinion, came about as a result of a neck injury. I have no idea if that's even possible but I distinctly remember piching my neck one morning when turning around in the car to reverse out the driveway. Headaches and pain have been my constant companions ever since (15 years ago - ish).

Chiropractors and doctors have done nothing but lighten the load in my wallet so I stopped seeing them quite a while ago.

Since incurring this pain in the neck doing the chins a couple of weeks ago, my sinus problem has flared up, and now the pain in the neck is slowly subsiding, so is the sinus conidition - coincidence perhaps?

I've done this injury before but less seriously, this time I was chinning with added weight - more strain = more pain I guess.

I console myself by testing the pain level regularly and when I move and it feels like the pain is not central or spinal and therefore I think it's in the muscles.

Your words have me thinking I should see someone about it, but it's getting slowly better, and I find it really hard to locate a Doc that knows or is bothered enough to help adequately.

Looked up Roanoke - it's in Vancouver???
I'm an Aussie - that's a long way for a bloke like me. :slightly_smiling:


Duke, I don't have neck pain from training, and woulnd'nt have read this thread if it wasn't for your good posts on mine. But I'm glad I did. My car accident five years ago gave me a lumbar spine like FizzEd'd neck, but I also had a whiplash cause periodic neck pain.
Now that I'm getting back into shape, I have worked my way into pull-ups again, and I appreciate the warnings-all I need is another pain to have work around. Doc


I'm in Roanoke, Virginia, USA about 4 hours from the east coast. Too far from the sea, and not far enough from Washington, D.C.! Someday I'll visit Melbourne. I have a friend from there. I read a great diary of Australian travel by Bill Bryson entitled In a Sunburned Country - He wrote A Walk In The Woodsabout 10 years ago - a very hilarious account of a trek on the Appalachian Trail.
All of the things you mention, and more, can be interrelated. There can be cause-and-effect relationships or varying correlation values between events and conditions. Untangling the storyline might be your job, with the help of the doctors and knowledgeable acquaintances.
Do you have allergy problems?


Sorry, I should've looked it up better Fizz. You'll love Australia I reckon. Melbourne is a great place but the weather can be a bit of a mix. We often poke fun at Melbourne saying it has all 4 seasons in one day.
If you head further north, New South Wales or Queensland - it's fabulous!

I don't have any allergies (that I'm aware of) however I think some foods do make it flare it up. For instance, I can't drink more than 4 alcholic drinks without getting headaches and hard to breathe through my nose. Capsicum, onions seem to make it worse too.

I get blood in my nose when the pain is bad (like now), just a small amount, not running out, just dried blood. It's happening right now and for no apparent reason other than the neck pain. I'm using a saline nasal wash each day now to alleviate the sinus problem and whilst it does clear things nicely, stuffiness returns after several hours.
This is gross, sorry.

A surgeon tried to fix my sinus' some years ago but after the operation I busted a blood vessel near the bridge of my nose (sneezing) and they couldn't stop the bleeding. I spent 4 weeks in bed not moving or eating anything hot in order to let it heal properly. Most unpleasant.... never again.

Appreciate your input guys. The neck is feeling better today with more mobility. I'm going to stick to cardio until next week though just to let things settle down some more.