Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting Rid of your Pain in the Neck

What if you had severe, chronic neck pain and your doctor didn't have a clue what to do for you? That was the place I was in during my early 30s: typing was agony, I couldn't press the Dictaphone buttons with my left hand hard enough to engage them, and I was too stiff to shimmy in dance class. Most of what I recall of an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play of that time (the one where they were stuck on an island) regards squirming around trying to get comfortable. (If you were sitting behind me, I apologize.)

A friend referred me to a chiropractor, who diagnosed two pinched nerves in my neck and between my shoulders. Nothing was torn or fractured, and IME, when that's the case, doctors who practice traditional Western medicine won't be able to diagnose anything. That's not to say you shouldn't see an M.D. If something is torn or broken, they can help where a chiropractor and the treatments I'm going to talk about cannot.

After several chiropractic treatments, my neck and shoulder recovered, but I still had niggling pain and occasional flare-ups. Over the years, I've found three ways of dealing with this--and I'm happy to say my neck and shoulder pain are gone. Here's what I've tried and the results I've gotten.

It's especially helpful for me when I have tension. My mom loves getting acupressure when her neck, shoulders and arms hurt. For most of us, this is easy to do for yourself and it can bring relief within a few minutes. All you do is press your fingertips into appropriate pressure points. A book like Acupressure's Potent Points can show you how.

Yoga. When I had continual neck pain, I did yoga neck exercises every morning, and it really helped. The exercises came from the 1959 edition of Yoga for Americans. I ignored the advice on coffee enemas and did the neck exercises daily. Every morning, I did each one five times, slowly, and didn't stretch to the point of discomfort. The exercises were moving my head side to side in a big NO motion, nodding in a big YES motion, moving my ear closer to my shoulder moving only my head, moving my head forward without tilting it (imagine a turtle poking its head out of its shell), and gently rolling my head around each direction. Often, my neck would pop and feel better when I moved my ear towards my shoulder. But if it didn't, I gave up after a few tries. Continuing to stretch just made it worse, so I waited and tried later.

I don't do this every day anymore, but it's helpful if I've had my neck in a strange position, like yesterday when a complete stranger in the seat behind me on the bus talked my ear off about the squirrel under her couch, her three dogs, two cats, guinea pigs, aquarium and colostomy bag.

Strength Training. Last year I started doing some abdominal exercises that involved keeping your head just off the floor for a few minutes. It was hard to do, but some weeks after I'd started, my neck pain was gone--surprise! My neck was stronger and free of pain. I used a video called Ballet Conditioning; now I use the Slow Burn system. (And I no longer need the yoga every day. But it's there in case I see the menagerie lady again.)


Shoulder Pain Coach Rick said...

I suffered from an impinged shoulder 2 years ago. And what had provided me long term relief are Simple Stretches, Range Of Motion and Strength Exercises. But your tips are great too.

Lori Miller said...

Hi, Rick. I'm glad to hear you resolved your shoulder pain. You mention active rest on your site--I think rest is definitely underrated.