Coping with neck pain

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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.


WII Fit Plus

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I’ve been having some stiff muscles lately. I wake up, and notice right away some tightness and a bit of stiffness.

I’m used to stretching after exercising. I took karate for something more than 2 years, training at least twice a week, learning to stretch at the end of each session so that I can avoid stiffness the day following. These days after skating I’ll stretch my calves, thighs and sides, after throwing a baseball or football around I’ll stretch my arms and sides, and after basketball I’ll stretch my arms and legs.

But my stiff muscles these days are just a small line of stiffness across my shoulder blades and on the back left side of my neck. These aren’t muscles that I’m used to stretching.

It’s coming from our purchase last weekend of a WII Fit Plus system.

The WII FIt Plus consists of a balance board that you stand on and a DVD of activities and games. In the three consecutive days of 30+ minutes that I’ve worked on it I’ve done some Yoga, Strength Training and a bunch of balance games, but I think what’s giving me the stiff muscles are the rhythmic Kung Fu, rhythmic boxing, and rhythmic baton twirling. All of these require stepping while timing moves with your arms and I think the abrupt arm movements are causing the day-after stiffness issues.

The system is not really designed for my purposes. I don’t care about my BMI because I don’t know that BMI is a great measurement, plus I know that I’m right in the okay range for BMI. And because of my non-obese body shape I also don’t care about how many calories the system estimates that I’ve burned because calorie burning is not one of my objectives. The WII apparently requires that you set yourself a BMI goal, so my goal is after two weeks to have the same BMI as I started with. Lofty goals indeed.

But I do like the yoga, though the trainer has weird boobs. I’d like more options for personality of trainer like a tough trainer or one that always challenges me. I’m planning to add wrist and leg weights to doing the strength training, and just the fun games of balance are better than sitting in front of the system on a chair to play a game.