By Dr. Andrew Crellin- West Warwick, Rhode Island
Back pain gets all the press and deservedly so, but for those who suffer from chronic neck pain, it can be a real buzz kill. There are no scars, braces, blood tests, casts, a positive MRI or even a worthwhile precipitating event to validate your misery. Yet these two bowling balls sit squarely on your shoulders, throbbing away. Accompanying complaints often include: headache, arm pain, numbness and tingling, fatigue, pain between your shoulder blades, muscles weakness and loss of neck mobility. Try entering a freeway from an on ramp when you can’t turn your head but 20 degrees. You end up rotating your whole torso straining lower portions of your spine and adding yet another malady to the symptomatic picture. Sound familiar?
If you have any of these symptoms for more than a week, you should see a professional who works with these types of problems on a regular basis. Medication will help you endure, but it won’t fix the underlying dysfunction. If the dysfunction is not fixed, you’re issues may go dormant but will probably return with even less provocation. Best to deal with them straight up and not let them go chronic where you end up dealing with a lot of secondary changes such as soft tissue shortening, fibrosis, and abnormal movement patterns.
In the meantime, what to do while you’re deciding what to do? Try ice. Many people go for the heat because it’s soothing and it feels good. I always encourage ice first. If you can’t stand it, then try heat. If you don’t at least try ice, you could be missing out on a tried and true modality for pain relief. A note on ice. Many people will put several layers of toweling between them and the ice. No good. Best way, put crushed ice in a zip lock baggie and a thin layer of cloth between you and the ice. For example one layer of a pillow case. Let it sit there for 15 minutes. If you’re really ambitious, follow this up with heat for 15 minutes and repeat several times. Always end with ice. This works for pain as well as getting rid of some of the inflammation.
Whether posture is causing you’re problems or perpetuating them, you still need to deal with it. So this is what happens. You decide you are going to do something about it. You try to sit up straight at your desk, and this works for 1, maybe 2 minutes. The phone rings, you turn on your computer, the dog barks. Before you know it your head is perched forward, your back is rounded and your neck aches. The thing is, you can’t think about your posture and think about your work at the same time. Your mind can’t be two places at the same time. Therefore you’re going to need some help with this. First, make sure you have a proper chair. Many of my patients work in an office where they have to either share a desk or they move from desk to desk. Outfitting every work station with a “proper” chair is not realistic for many employers. You may need to obtain an external support to help you maintain a more upright posture. I will have to deal with the details of this in a later article.
If you have any of those symptoms mentioned at the top of the page then you know sleeping can become a major issue. Again, external supports can be very helpful. One of my favorite and most effective little tricks is to roll up a towel so it is about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap some tape or an elastic around it so it does not come unraveled. Lay on your back or side placing your head on your pillow. Slip the towel roll under your neck to fill in that space between your head and shoulders, You will not believe how good this can feel. If you have broad shoulders, there is a lot of distance between the side of your head and the tip of your shoulder. Therefore your head has to crank way over to reach the pillow. This causes a lot of compression on the down (weight bearing) side and a lot of traction on the “up” side. The towel roll helps to eliminate this stress to your neck allowing you to rest and recuperate during the night.
So now you know: ice, sitting and sleeping postures are very important in helping you recover from a neck problem. And for goodness sakes don’t fall asleep sitting in a chair or while lying on the couch!!
Get up and go to bed
Dr. Andrew Crellin is a 1983 graduate of the University of Connecticut from the physical therapy program in allied health. He is a 1989 graduate from the Palmer Chiropractic College-West in Sunnyvale California.
He has been practicing both disciplines in West Warwick since 1991. Dr. Crellin lead the three year process for inclusion of chiropractic services at Women & Infants Hospital. From 2000 to 2007 he provided chiropractic services at the Program for Women’s Oncology treating women suffering from cancer.
In addition he has extensive schooling and experience treating the pregnant female for neck and low back pain. He has been a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island since 1990 and served as president of the CSRI from 2008 to 2010. He has been certified as a chiropractic sports physician, and is certified in the Webster Techinque and Graston Technique.
Dr. Crellin is married to Elaine Crellin (Owner of Sport and Spine Physical Therapy) and resides in Barrington with his three children. His office is located at 328 Cowesett Ave. West Warwick, R.I. and can reached at 821-6091