Neck stiffness and related symptoms

Ever have a stiff shoulder blade or a tight spot in the back of your neck? The kind that result in kinks and knots? Sometimes when I get these symptoms they will be followed by headaches that are generated by the tension.

I play various musical instruments, some of which hang around my neck from straps which causes problems for me. I also spend a lot of hours sitting at the computer which causes more problems. And prolonged anxiety, or living in an anxious situation for a period of time will cause the same kind of tension to form in our neck as we physically shrink and huddle our shoulders to protect ourselves, or keep our shoulders constantly tense as we try to carry our burden.

Aspirin will easily deal with the headache as well as any stiffness, but it’s only a temporary solution. Sitting straight helps. Yoga stretches help; there’s a couple in particular that are good for me where I use a short length of rope and stretch above and behind my head. Lifting free weights helps. So do sit ups.

The problem; neck position

But the real issue is that my neck and shoulders are not sitting in a strong position as I go through my day. They may have been bent by some musical rehearsal or by some sloppy sitting at the computer and now I’m habitually pinching the blood flow with my lazy sitting.

So if I consciously keep reminding myself, “imagine a string at the top of my head pulling my head up, and push the shoulders back a bit”, it helps. But ya gotta keep reminding yourself to do it ’cause you’re out of the habit of proper position. Keep checking your position two or three times every hour.

The solution; straightening the neck

The other savior is sleeping position. As I lie down to sleep I do the same reminder, pulling my head slightly higher on the pillow and slightly back from my default position. If I wake during the night, I try to remember to do the same again.

Boy, is this a relief. The straightening and relaxing as I get ready for sleep allows me to wake up without any knots or headache. After just one night everything feels relaxed and straightened, though a bit tentative and a bit sore like you might after a massage or physiotherapy. You wake up knowing that things are better, but also that your body is still vulnerable or weak. From there it takes some more stretching, exercise or reminders to build the good position into a habit again, but sleeping with your neck stretched is really a corner-turning situation. The headache will be gone, the stiffness released, and it’s the beginning of the path back to a normal neck.