Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stiff Neck
or How I Knew I Was Really 30

Thursday night, or maybe it was Wednesday, I woke up with a slight cramp in my neck. Didn't seem like a big deal. I played ball Friday morning as I normally do. The next few days, the neck hurt a bit, you might say increasingly, but I basically ignored it and functioned normally.

Until this morning. I woke up at 5:00 AM and my neck was hurting like a real banshee. This little crick of mine had turned into a mountain of pain. I could barely move my neck. It was seriously a struggle just to sit up in the bed.

First thing I did was Google "Stiff Neck." I found a handy website named necksolutions that pretty much described exactly what I was dealing with. Take a look at the image to the left and you'll appreciate how the muscle in question might get a bit tense. They suggested warm compresses and showers and self-massages. I showered and the neck felt a little better.

I spent the rest of the day basically doing the robot. I got some special oils from my housemate, who's studying for her boards in Chinese medicine. The oils penetrated well and provided some relief (substantially better than the Icy Hot I tried later on in the day). I managed to get a couple hours more sleep.

Usually I sleep with my head on my arm, with a very thin pillow in-between. This pillow is like fifteen years old. You just can't buy them this thin anymore. My girlfriend thinks this is why I got the stiff neck. Today, I tried sleeping on a slightly thicker pillow, with my arm off to the side instead of underneath. When I woke up I was functional enough to do a little work on the laptop (which is another reason I probably got the stiff neck in the first place).

I'm feeling a little better now, after a nice evening bath and another application of the oils. But I have learned my lesson. I am pretty sure that the main thing my neck needed was rest. I was ignoring it for the better part of a week, and sure enough it came back to bite me. I mean, last night I went around San Francisco giving a friend of mine a walking tour of Chinatown and North Beach. I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back (or neck, as the case may be).

Used to be I could basically ignore my body and it would heal itself. I'm guessing that this isn't the case anymore. I'm over 30 now, and my body's slowed down a bit. I'd better learn to slow down, too. Unless I want to smell like Ben Gay all the time.

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9 comments:

Dave L said...

I wouldn’t pin this one on age. There are three times that I can remember getting a neck cramp as severe as the one you experienced, once before I turned 20 and twice before I turned 26.

Also, Ben Gay might be an improvement in your usual odor...

Shawna said...

I sleep funny sometimes, and this happens to me occasionally - the best thing i've found is alternating heat and cold over a day or two and then (seriously) having two strong drinks in lieu of Rx muscle relaxants and going to sleep on a decent pillow.

therapydoc said...

Or you could've called your dad. Hope you feel better!

Samurai Scientist said...

@Dave,
I wouldn’t pin this one on age. There are three times that I can remember getting a neck cramp as severe as the one you experienced, once before I turned 20 and twice before I turned 26.

Yeah, I think my evidence is pretty flimsy too. But I wanted to work in the "over the hill" factor.

@Shawna,
the best thing i've found is alternating heat and cold over a day or two and then (seriously) having two strong drinks in lieu of Rx muscle relaxants and going to sleep on a decent pillow.

Yeah, this is the kind of advice I need. I'll break out the amaretto tonight.

@therapydoc,
Or you could've called your dad. Hope you feel better!

I shoulda called him, you're right. I am feeling better though. Plus, a friend bought me a neck brace.

I'm going to try to fire up the hot tub for tonight...

Aba said...

Studies have shown that topical applications of whatever mentholated or other chemical irritant that gives a sensation of heat do not cause a measurable rise in temperature deeper than a quarter inch below the skin surface. The skin of the neck is about 3/8 inches thick.
Although thermal heat may provide some muscle relaxation, usually a better solution is ice, which is anti-inflammatory. Gentle stretching is important, too, since the actinomyosin fibrils are clamped down in response to injury and secondary inflammatory response.
A big initial dose of a cyclooxegenase inhibitor (e.g. --ibuprofen), when the injury first occurs (e.g.-- before you trade car insurance info) will greatly reduce the recovery time.

VolcanicNephew said...

Happened to me too, and before 30.

Three words: Hot Water Bottle.

Sometimes the oldest remedies are the best.

Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Lonnie Letellier said...

There are lots of ways or alternatives that you can find on the Internet. But then, they are only 'band-aid solutions'. Meaning, you may got a sudden relief, but it would come back in time. That's why visiting a professional chiropractor should never miss your list. This kind of therapy won't only relieve you from stiff neck, but also, it could make you aware about the weak points on your physiology.

#Lonnie@USHealthWorks.com/Spokane-South-Hill-Center.html

Shan Salas said...

You can find relief in stretching or moving your neck clockwise and counterclockwise. This is the usual exercise you can do to prevent stiff necks. Just do it slowly to avoid pain from rapid movement. And I would suggest to still visit a chiropractor once in a while so that you'd know how to prevent having a stiff neck in the future.

Shan @Brandon Chiropractor

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