From time to time, I like to share the history of my personal stories of my injuries, and how they affect me, rarely only. In today’s blog I want to start this way, and tell you that I have virtually injured almost every joint in my body at least once. However, I currently do not have pain and this includes my neck. Today’s topic. But when I have pain or flare ups, my signs and symptoms are the following: pain in the suboccipital area or base of my skull, headaches, numbness or complete loss of control of my arms along with intense pain, and pain in the junction of my neck and upper back. I do not get all of these at the same time but on very rare occasions, I do. I also do not get these signs and symptoms monthly or a couple times per year. They are rare, and that is because I understand what I have and know what to do to keep them from being constant. Or from reoccurring more often.
In my case, I have 2 bulging discs and 1 herniated disc in the lower part of my neck. Well, that is what my last MRI showed almost 10 years ago. I also have very old injuries from my teenage years that were never corrected such as a fractured clavicle and a straight neck from a car accident. A plate to my clavicle and a neck alignment and strengthening would’ve fixed these two. Now, I just manage them successfully.
What do I do to manage these? Out of all of the dysfunctions or symptoms I can present, the most concerning one is the complete loss of control of my arms and intense pain. This happens from time to time when I am under a lot of stress and my posture suffers intensely. I wake up with my arms in extreme pain and unable to move them. When that happens, I know the trick to fix them, chin tucks. This exercise engages all of my intrinsic neck muscles and stabilizes my cervical spine helping me start moving my arms and getting rid of the pain. It is scary but it can be done. I also help prevent this from happening often by doing chin tucks in combination with self provided soft tissue mobilization to my suboccipital, scalenes, UT, and sternocleidomastoid muscles, strengthening my rhomboids and lower traps to support my neck, and self applied gentle traction either by hanging my head off the edge of my bed or distracting my neck gently with my wrists in combination with gently neck extension.
The picture of this exercise shows how to gently distract one’s neck as previously described. In addition to these exercises, I use cold packs. They work. Hot packs feel nice but if you have a flare up, you need cold to decrease the initial inflammation, not heat. Just like fire fighters use water to fight fires.
To get rid of my headaches, I mobilize my suboccipitals first. I may add self distraction to my neck, ice if it is very painful or heat if it is just stiff.
We can show you all of these exercises at BreakingThrough San Diego Physical Therapy. Probably with some modification to fit YOU uniquely, and train you so you learn which exercises to use for the appropriate symptom if you are like me who has multiple injuries. Our moto is Live Better, Feel Better. Maximize Your Life. We mean it. Reach out to us if you need help.