Photo courtesy of ABMP
Beans about neck pain
I woke up the other morning with a terrible crick in my neck. I know, I know, these small, annoying but generally harmless pains happen to almost everyone at some point. It hurt to turn this way, it hurt to turn that way, and the discomfort was making me feel a little crabby-- like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
I suppose I could have taken some ibuprofen, but I'm always playing a game with myself where I say "Let's try this first." I don't like to take over the counter medication so I make it a priority not to. I try to keep healthy by doing all the preventative things like hand washing, getting enough sleep, managing stress, eating right, exercising, and keeping my internal organs warm. But sometimes I do feel things creeping up on me and I don't want them to become a problem. If I don't have time for sickness or pain now, then I certainly won't have time for the side-effects of ibuprofen, should such side-effects develop.
I wondered about the cause of the neck pain. A cold draft? Not likely. An injury? Nothing came to mind. It was probably a simple case of sleeping wrong. After all, I noticed it right away in the morning. It didn't hurt too much either, maybe 2-3 on a 10 scale. Mostly it was annoying.
I hadn't even had my coffee yet, so as I stumbled around grasping for my portkey to wakefulness (French roast in a local pottery cup), I thought about my next steps. I tried to pinpoint the spot from where the pain was coming. I put my fingertips on the back of my neck, near my spine, and pressed in. When I felt a spot that reproduced my symptoms, I hung out there. I pushed on the spot while turning my head this way and that. "Find the spot, then add movement," is what my mentor always said. Pin and stretch.
That felt pretty good, so between sips I massaged my neck from the sub-occipital region at the base of my skull all the way down to the bump on my spine and over to my shoulders. I carefully felt around each vertebrae, paying attention to the point where muscles attach on the spinous processes and the transverse processes. Wherever it felt important and related to this bout of pain I did some point holding, adding movement as needed. A little pin and stretch always feels great and seems to help the muscles return to a point where they can glide along like they should.
When I was ready for a refill, I also grabbed my microwaveable rice pack and an ice pack to put in my bag for work. I know there is a lot of current research suggesting maybe the conventional RICE-rest, ice, compression, elevation treatment is outdated. It suggests that ice isn't the best thing to heal the tissue. I didn't think my current pain was from an injury so I wasn't too worried about it. I only sought to have less pain, to have a good toolbox handy so I wouldn't have to deal with the pain yet could avoid the ibuprofen.
I filled my thermos and headed to work. Throughout the day I continued to rub my neck for 2-3 minutes at a time, every hour. I don't know when it happened exactly, but at some point my neck stopped hurting. Cool beans!
Gina McCafferty is a licensed massage therapist, and heath coach who works with women in their peri and menopausal years who have 30 or more pounds to lose.