Neck Pain Management

It would be great if just getting massage would keep your neck pain away, but I’m not going to pretend that massage alone is some kind of magical cure.  Managing chronic pain of any kind takes diligence. As a sufferer of chronic neck pain, I’d like to tell you some of the things that I do to manage the pain. These are not prescriptions, just some ideas of things that you might try to help yourself at home between massage appointments (and I don’t get any compensation for any products I recommend).

Move EVERY day. If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve heard it before. If you missed it, click here.

Stretch. Especially the chest muscles. If you’ve been to my office for neck pain, chances are good that I’ve shown you the doorway stretch. If not, give me a call, and we’ll arrange something! One of these years I will get some pictures or videos of some good stretches posted.

For those of you who might like to venture into yoga, but don’t want to take a class, I highly recommend DVDs by Sara Ivanhoe. Her technique is very gentle and she usually has modifications for all different levels.

Along with the stretches, consider doing some strengthening exercises for the upper back and neck. Ask your favorite personal trainer for specific suggestions.

Create a goal to REALLY focus on better posture. Find ways to remind yourself. Put a note by your computer! Ask a buddy to give you a little nudge when they see you slouching. And be patient with yourself…bad habits are hard to break, but you can do it!

Heat packs. Or alternating hot and cold packs. Great for circulation!

Press on the knots. Your body instictively knows where to press. There are tools for the hard to reach places.

Try various shapes and densities of balls…tennis, bouncy rubber balls, lacrosse balls. I recommend sticking the ball in a long sock and draping the sock over the shoulder to reach spots on the upper back. Then stand against a wall to apply the pressure.

You might like a Backnobber or a Theracane, if a ball is not your cup of tea.  If you’d like to see how it works, just ask next time you are at my office!

Remember: don’t press so hard that it’s a “bad” kind of hurt. Don’t bruise yourself. Be gentle. Whenever you have a kink in your shoulder, be sure to work gently on the spot a few times a day for about a minute at a time.

TENS machines. I don’t even think you need a prescription for these any more, and I believe the over-the-counter ones are reasonably priced. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist how to use these units.

Traction machines. I think you probably have to go to a physical therapist to get one of these. All I know is that my physical therapist made it possible for me to get one paid for by my insurance company, so it never hurts to ask.

Last, but certainly not least…get yourself on a regular (at least monthly) massage schedule. You knew that was coming…it wouldn’t be a proper massage therapy site without a plug for regular massage, now would it?

Massage can help arthritis pain!

Arthritis is a PAIN! Massage can help to manage the pain!

Research supports the idea that regular massage helps manage arthritis pain and stiffness, and helps to improve functioning of the joints. If you are interested in reading about some of the research in this area just head on over to the website for the Touch Research Institute.

I think the most interesting aspect of this idea is that massage can help to break the pain cycle. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. When you don’t get enough good sleep and/or you don’t move enough, that leads to more pain. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. And on and on and on and on! If you live with pain, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about! 

You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response. That is the sympathetic nervous system kicking in. BUT, there is also the parasympathetic nervous system which is otherwise known as the “rest and digest” system. When you get a massage, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear.

Increased parasympathetic nervous system activity=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

Also, when you get a massage your body produces more of a hormone called Oxytocin, that makes you feel good. (Massage also decreases certain stress hormones).

Increase of good hormones=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

 

 

So, the only thing left to say is:

Give massage a try!

 

 

Pain and Movement

Fascia. It seems to be a pretty hot topic lately. Books, articles and papers abound on the topic. I’m not here to give you all of the expert nitty gritty on the subject, but I would like to tell you why I think it is important to you.

What is fascia? Simply put, fascia is a thin layer of tissue that covers and connects absolutely EVERYTHING inside of your body.

Why is fascia important to you? Because healthy fascia greatly helps with the management of pain.  

Movement contributes to healthy fascia. From my perspective, since one of the main functions of muscles is heat production, when you move your muscles, you are heating up the fascia. When fascia is heated up it turns into a gel-like state that makes it much easier to move. (That’s called “Thixotropy” for all you word nerds out there).

When your body does not move enough, the fascia thickens and becomes more restrictive. Have you ever worn an item of clothing that is too restrictive? At first, it may be just a little bit uncomfortable, but eventually it actually starts to hurt, right? That’s the way with unhealthy fascia. It can lead to pain in much the same way. Imagine tight fascia squeeeeeezing all your muscles, bones, organs, nerves, etc., etc.

Fascia is like a web that connects everything throughout your entire body.  So, if fascia is a little tight in one area of the body, it will be pulling on fascia in other parts of the body, causing increasingly more pain.

So, what’s the main point here? You guessed it! Keep moving everyone!

 

Another almost shameless plug for massage:

Massage can also help to heat up and stretch the fascia.  So get massage frequently and move daily!  (Just be sure there is a variety of movement, because repetitive movement can also do damage).

Of course, movement and massage are not the only factors in maintaining healthy fascia, but that is a topic for another day.