Neck Strain or Sprain

Rock Rehab Protocol

The Neck Strain or Sprain “Rock Rehab Protocol” is a step-by-step rehabilitation and injury prevention plan designed specifically for rock climbers who have pain in the back or sides of their neck. The goal of the four-phase process is to take you from the pain, inflammation and tissue overload stage to gain full mobility, strength and eventually pain-free climbing movement.

  • How to get out of pain
  • How to unload tissue with tape
  • How to strengthen the area
  • How to avoid injury again

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain, tenderness, muscle spasm or stiffness in the back of the neck
  • Discomfort looking upwards or turning your head to the side


The neck is made up of flexor muscles in the front and extensor muscles in the back. When you look up at your partner while belaying or climbing, your neck extensors are constantly overworking. Over time, these muscles get strong and stiff while the neck flexors become weak, creating an imbalance. This imbalance can also lead to compression of the joints in your neck.

Step 1: Determine Your Injury

Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any assessment or beginning a rehabilitation protocol. 

Use the videos below as a resource to determine whether or not you have a neck strain or sprain.

Step 2: Determine Your Rehab Category

Use the table below to determine your rehabilitation category based on the results from your orthopedic tests. You will fit into a rehabilitation category (mild, moderate or severe) based on the number of tests that are positive.

Step 3: Start The Protocol

Once you have determined your rehabilitation category, you can begin the rock rehab protocol. The protocols contain a detailed timeline and step-by-step instructions. They utilize a four-phase system to unload the injured tissue, gain full mobility, improve strength and eventually return to pain-free climbing movement. The protocols can either be viewed within the program or downloaded as a PDF.

Get The Neck Strain/Sprain Protocol $15

Sample Videos

These are videos from the actual Rock Rehab Protocol where professional climbers teach you efficient climbing movement and proper exercise performance.

Mobility Level 2

The above exercise decreases tissue adhesions within the muscles in the back of your neck.

Strength Level 2

The above exercise increases the strength of the deep neck flexors in a position that mirrors belaying.

  • Unload the neck muscles and joints with traction exercises.
  • Improve the mobility of the neck muscles.
  • Regain pain-free neck range of motion in all directions.
  • Increase the strength of the muscles in the front of the neck.
  • Learn movement tips to decrease the strain on the neck while belaying.
  • Return to climbing and belaying with optimal movement.

Recommended Rehab Tools 

The Rock Rehab Protocols were built specifically for rock climbers. It is for this reason that any tool that is used in the protocol can either be bought as a rehabilitation tool or created from retired climbing equipment or household items. If you use retired climbing equipment or household items, it will be referenced in the videos as a “dirtbag substitution.” Below you will see a list of rehabilitation tools recommended for the Neck Strain or Sprain Protocol.

There are very few tools that you will need to perform this protocol. If you would like to purchase a TheraBand to perform the exercises, you can find it in the link below:

About the Climbing Doctor

  • Doctor of physical therapy
  • University of Southern California professor
  • Residency trained in orthopedics
  • Fellowship trained in movement science
  • 9 years of concentrated academic study
  • Over a decade of clinical experience treating climbers
  • Board certified orthopedic clinical specialist
  • Certified strength and conditioning specialist
  • Numerous articles on preventing injuries
  • Lectures internationally on injury prevention
  • Author of best selling book Climb Injury-Free

Get All Six Protocols for Just $75

Avoid injuries by following protocols for pulley sprain, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff strain, lateral epicondylosis, medial epicondylosis and neck strain/sprain.

Get All 6 for Just $75

Get The Companion Book

The “Climb Injury-Free” book will teach you how to diagnosis, treat and prevent the 10 most common climbing injuries in step-by-step chapters. Learn exclusive injury advice with over 30 profiles from top professional climbers including Adam Ondra, Sasha DiGiulian Sean McColl, Jonathan Siegrist and many more. Now you can utilize the system used by thousands of climbers worldwide and see the results for yourself.

  • Prevent climbing injuries before they happen
  • Learn how to rehabilitate the 10 most common climbing injuries
  • Discover the 30 incorrect movement patterns that cause injury
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