What actually is belayers neck?

What actually is belayers neck?

“belayer’s neck” is not an official diagnosis, but most climbers know it all too well. That pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders, that makes it difficult and painful to look upwards and makes your neck uncomfortable for days. 

We all know how we get it too, (The clue is in the name) standing belaying often looking directly up, often for long hours with your head twisted awkwardly and thrown back to the point that your head is touching the top of your back. All of this making you grumpy and wishing that your partner would just hurry up and top out so that you don’t have to endure this anymore. 

But, what actually is belayers neck? 

Belayers neck is caused by either Muscle Strain, Facet Joint Irritation, Nerve Root Irritation, or Nerve Entrapment

Muscle Strain

Your head is actually quite heavy, and that's fine when it's up straight and all of your muscles are able to hold it in place, however, if you learn your head back or in any direction for that matter, then certain muscles have to do the lions share of the work, holding your head up against gravity. This is fine, for a short period of time, but if prolonged, your muscles will become strained under the pressure, which will cause them to hurt for an extended period. 

Facet Joint Irritation

Your spine is made up to Vertebrae in a string with little discus in between which act as pillows, for the bones. On the back of the spine are the facet joins which hook everything together. If you learn your head and or spine forward the gaps between the Facet's gets larger, but if you lean your head back, they move closer together and can rub, which causes inflammation, which can cause pain not just in your neck, but also in your shoulders and back. 

Nerve Root Irritation

Your spine is home to your spinal cord, which is a big wire that moves electrical impulses around your body, that lets your body and brain communicate. At regular intervals, nerves will leave the spinal cord, and go out into the rest of the body. If the area around the nerves exit is inflamed, it can cause an obstruction. Your body will let you know it's not happy by causing you pain. It's nice like that. :)

Nerve Entrapment

You have nerves moving all around your body, if muscles become tight, they can trap nerves. A trapped nerve in your neck can affect you anywhere from your neck itself to your hand. 


Overall, all of these a painful but completely avoidable. You just have to prevent yourself, from getting into such an unusual posture, for an extended length of time. 

There are a number of ways of doing this, that we'll take about more in later posts, but you can also use belay glasses, which will let you see directly upwards while keeping a more normal neck position. 

You can have a look at ours here: https://climbingfrog.co.uk/products/climbing-frog-belay-glasses

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and look forward to seeing you at a crag soon! 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published