Neck Pain and Handstand Pushups

*photo credit:


If you’ve ever attempted a handstand pushup or do them regularly you’ve probably experienced some neck pain.  If you experience neck pain every time you do them, you definitely need to continue reading!

For those who have no idea what a handstand pushup is, watch this….

A common thought of many is….well I’m coming down with my weight on my head, that’s why my neck hurts.  True, but thinking that this is acceptable and comes with the territory and/or not working on your technique to prevent getting neck pain can lead to serious problems with your neck or other àreas of the body.  What may start as a “muscle” strain, can overtime lead to nerve irritation (numbess, tingling, burning), weakness, disc injury or fractures.

I’ve learned from personal experience and clinically treating patients with this being their primary complaint, that the pain can be very mild to quite severe.  Coming down with all the force on your head compresses your neck and overtime can squeeze and put pressure on your discs, joints and nerves.  I’d like to first share an anatomy review of the cervical spine(neck) and some orthopedic tests you can do on your own to see if you have any pain/irritation of these structures.  Secondly, I’d like to share some exercises that can help prevent and/or help to alleviate your neck pain.

Anatomy review of the neck

*photo credit: Veritas Health, LLC and

We have 7 cervical vertebrae and except for the top two we have an intervertebral disc(IVD) between each one.  The spinal cord runs down the spine behind the discs and nerve roots exit on the sides of your neck through holes in between each vertebrae called intervertebral foramen (IVF).

With repeated force, stress/strain of the joints, discs and nerves in your neck they can become irritated and sensitized.  The first symptom will typically be a “muscle pull” feeling and/or a deep, dull ache.  This is the brain’s way to protect these vital structures.  Take this as your warning sign that there could be more going on!

To check if you have some disc, joint compression or nerve involvement here are some tests you can do.

Maximal Foraminal Compression

Any symptoms, especially if this reproduces your main complaint, should be noted.  Keep in mind that there are more advanced tests that can be done clinically.

Upper Limb Tension Tests

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For these nerve tension tests, put your arm in the position first and then bend and turn your head away.  These can reproduce some symptoms pretty quickly so use caution stretching to far.

I do encourage you consult a professional if these tests cause pain, numbness, tingling, burning or weakness.  Not everything can be stretched, rolled or massaged out.  More often doing so can make things worse!

If you did have symptoms with these tests, try doing a couple sets of 10 reps of this exercise and then retest.  If your symptoms improve not only is this a good sign, but this also means you may be able to manage your symptoms on your own by performing multiple sets throughout the day.


Moving forward if your symptoms improved with the chin tuck exercise or you didn’t have any symptoms with the prior tests then here are 3 Common Faults many have when performing handstand pushups.  I’ve included one exercise that can help correct them.

1.) The neck being extended when pushing up

2.) The neck being extended when coming down

3.) Lower rib cage flare and excessive lumbar hyperextension

For all of these exercises, perform 10-12 reps each set and perform 2-3 sets as a part of your training.

Once again, I’ve seen personally and clinically the negative effects handstand pushups can have on the neck, but on a positive side I’ve seen these exercises help prevent and/or alleviate some or all of the neck pain/symptoms an individual may be having.  Give them a try and I always appreciate the feedback.  Keep in mind it can take time and can be a process, but if you stick with it, it will be worth it!

If you have any questions in regards to these exercises or are need of an evaluation, please contact me.

Yours in Health,

Dr. G


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