A: Yes, we do! There are a multitude of reasons why millions of people suffer from muscle spasms, tension, and pain in the neck and back of the neck, sometimes on a daily basis.
Reprinted from Chiropractic Wellness Magazine
Written by: Dr. Suzy Osborne
To find the cause of the problem, it is often necessary to seek help from a Doctor of Chiropractic, Neurologist, Physical Therapist, or other qualified Health Care Provider. Seeking out alternative and holistic solutions for neck pain is often the answer for many individuals.
Some effective neck pain relief solutions include: Massage therapy including many different types of bodywork therapy such as craniosacral work, assisted stretching, trigger point therapy tools such as the Backnobber, Biofeedback, nutritional supplements for neck pain and headaches, stress reduction techniques, proper body mechanics, quality cervical or neck pillows, proper lifting and computer usage ergonomics, and a wide variety of other natural and safe solutions.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do on your own at home or at work to help relieve and possibly eliminate muscle spasms and tension that lead to neck pain and discomfort. Quite often the cause of neck pain is closely related to muscle spasms and painful trigger points in the neck, upper back, and shoulder region. Inflammation and irritation of the spinal joints and delicate soft tissue of the neck caused by rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are one of the leading causes of neck pain.
It is important to take time to listen to your body and educate yourself so that you can prevent neck pain and stiffness and related symptoms such as headaches and tingling, pain, and numbness in the arms. When stretching the neck muscles, never use quick, jerky motions. Avoid extreme rotation, flexion, and extension of the head, which can damage the delicate cervical tissue, including nerves and discs.
Instead, slowly and gently stretch the neck side-to-side by bringing the ear toward the shoulder. This is much safer and more effective than the rapid rolling of the head in a circle. I literally cringe every time I see a boxer, football player, or other athlete quickly jerk their head from side to side or rapidly roll their head in a circle around their shoulders.
There is no way to sleep on your stomach without putting some torque or twisting in your spine, especially in the neck region. This can be harmful to the spinal column because it puts pressure on the delicate spinal nerves over an extended period of time, and may result in stiffness, neck pain, and headaches.
The ideal position for sleeping is on your back, with a pillow under your neck to support the cervical curve. If you sleep on your side, try to switch sides frequently and position your pillow so that your head and neck are level with the bed and not tilted at an angle. Since there is less stress on the lower back when your legs are bent, try sleeping with a pillow under your knees if you are sleeping on your back, or between your knees if you sleep on your side.
There are three natural curves in the spine that naturally increase its strength and flexibility: the cervical curve in the neck, the thoracic curve in the mid back, and the lower back or lumbar curve. Just as the curve in a bridge or other structure increases its weight bearing capacity, so too, do the curves in your spine.
Loss of the cervical curve can be a result of overstretching of the ligaments, as is often seen after a serious car accident. This loss of curve can result in decreased weight bearing strength of the neck supporting the head and can cause pain and stiffness, possibly affecting vital nerve flow. Just as there is a continuous flow between the fluids on a cellular level, there is also a certain flow, similar to electricity, within the nervous system. Whenever there is an obstruction of the nerve flow, the part of the body that is supplied by that nerve does not function at its fullest potential.
One of the things that you can do to stimulate proper nerve flow is to obtain a sufficient amount of exercise. The lymphatic system and the digestive system function more efficiently with proper physical activity, and the nervous system is no exception.
Walking is a surprisingly good exercise for neck muscles, especially when you swing your arms. Swimming is wonderful because there is no weight bearing pressure on the joints and discs. Strengthening the muscles around the neck, including the traps and smaller spinal muscles also helps stabilize and support the neck and prevent pain and spasm.
Perhaps one of the most important things that you can do to prevent and relieve neck and back pain is to avoid overuse. Listen to your body. It is constantly giving you valuable feedback that can serve as a warning sign. Don't simply cover up the symptoms. Do something about the cause of the problem and treat your amazing body with the respect it deserves.
DON’T: Don’t sleep on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach for extended periods, your head is turned to one side or the other which puts strain and torque on the delicate nerves and soft tissue of the neck region. Instead, try to sleep on your back as much as possible. If you sleep on your side, try to shift sides frequently to evenly distribute weight bearing pressure on the neck.
DO: Lie down as often as possible when you feel neck pain coming on. Relieving the spine of weight bearing pressure gives irritated soft tissue a chance to relax and keeps pressure from intensifying and building. One of the primary purposes of the neck is to support the heavy weight of the head and when the neck muscles are strained for hours at a time, pressure builds and accelerates rapidly if the weight bearing stress is not temporarily reduced.
DON’T: You should never roll your head around quickly or jerk it from side to side. Avoid excessive rotation of the neck. It is better to laterally flex the neck by slowly, gently bringing the ear toward the shoulder and holding for a few seconds. You can also help strengthen the muscles by applying gentle resistance against a towel stretched across the forehead, back and sides of the head. Never strain or take a stretch to a point where there is discomfort or pain.
DO: If your job or daily routine involves constant flexion of the neck, it is imperative that you take frequent breaks to stretch your neck as often as possible. Continuous flexion of the neck (looking down) can also have a negative effect on the soft tissue and nerves of the neck and shoulder region. This is especially important if you spend many hours a day working at a desk or on a computer.
DON’T: Sit directly under air conditioning vents for extended periods when you are experiencing pain in your neck and shoulders. (Excessive cold air blowing directly on your muscles increases possibility of spasms and stiff necks.)
DO: Keep your neck and shoulders warm when traveling on an airplane. You might want to travel with a scarf for this purpose. I have seen more stiff necks that were a result of flying and sitting under air conditioning vents than any other cause over the years. People with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the neck are particularly vulnerable to cold air and drafts.
DON’T: Do not ignore warning signals from your body while lifting or performing manual labor or extended computer work. Your body is constantly giving you feedback and trying to protect itself from permanent damage to the delicate soft tissues of the spine and nervous system. Pain is your body’s way of getting your attention and letting you know what your personal limits are.
DO: Safely Stretch as often as possible. A great deal of pain and discomfort can be avoided by taking the joints through their normal ranges of motion on a regular basis. The exercises in Dr. Suzy’s Zoga Booklet are perfect for fighting and preventing pain and stiffness in the neck region and throughout the body as well.
A: Luckily, there are some things that you can do on your own, naturally, to help ease the pain and discomfort due to a specific type of headache known as a tension headache. Tension headaches are characterized by a band of tightness, pressure or pain around the forehead, temples, and back of the head. Frequently, the pain or pressure in the head is accompanied by stiffness, pain or discomfort in the neck and upper back region.
My favorite self care tool designed specifically for the purpose of relieving painful spasms and knotted muscles is the Original Backnobber 2, manufactured by the Pressure Positive Company. One of the advantages to using this ergonomically designed massage tool is that you can apply pressure to affected areas without having to raise your arm and tighten other muscles to do so.
The S shaped design makes it easy to apply localized pressure to the hard to reach areas under your shoulder blades, in the trapezius area of the neck, and even to the broad muscles of the lower back, which can also contribute to stress related muscle spasm. I like the fact that anyone can use this device at any time in the privacy of their own home or office without having to wait for an appointment. By taking just a few minutes to relax, listen to your body and do something about the cause of muscle related pain, you can prevent a stressful situation from taking a major toll of your body.
When an individual combines the use of the Backnobber with the stretches recommended in the accompanying user guide, they are also helping to elongate and lengthen tight muscles, decompress joints, and increase range of motion and flexibility throughout the body.
Stretching the muscles of the neck and shoulder region naturally decreases painful spasms and increases blood flow to affected areas. Utilizing self care tools such as the Backnobber can also help the headache and neck pain sufferer gain a measure of control over their symptoms and lead to an increased awareness of other related factors that may be causing their pain and dysfunction.
I like the fact that hundreds of thousands of users have benefited from this simple yet effective product since 1979 and that the company that manufactures this product is passionate about myofascial therapy education and research.
Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Dr. Suzy is a retired Doctor of Chiropractic and active Health And Fitness Educator. The information and suggestions that she shares on this website are for reference purposes only and not intended to be diagnostic in any way nor a substitute for consultation with a physician or other licensed health-care professional. Always obtain a complete physical examination and discuss your specific conditions, limitations, and health history with the qualified health care provider of your choice before making major lifestyle changes.