7 Steps to Eliminating Neck Pain
By Dr. Robert Duvall
What is it?
What do we do on a daily basis? We wake up, sit down, have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. We sit in our car and drive to work. We arrive at work and sit down to work. For the next several hours we place and answer phone calls, enter data, research information and communicate with the computer. After the long day, we get back in our car and drive home. We get home, sit down and have dinner, watch the television, and go to bed. Eight hours later, press repeat. The viscious cycle begins again!
Fast forward ten years later:
- shoulder pain
- neck pain
- numbness & tingling in the hands
- weakness in the arms & hands
- slumped posture
- rounded shoulders
- forward head
How we look today is the result of years of postural imbalance and compensations. Are these signs and symptoms that you are experiencing? But why does this occur? How did this happen to me? How can I fix the problem? The basic premise here is that we become accustomed to our environment. Not too mention gravity is working against us.
Our body as a whole will adapt to the positions we place them in on a daily basis. The muscles in the front of our body become tight and the muscles of our upper back (around our shoulder blades) become stretched out and weak. This in turn weakens our neck muscles, and our head now drops forward.The front neck muscles become weak and stretched out, and the back neck muscles become very tight. Remember our head attaches to our neck, and our neck attaches to our upper back and shoulders. There is constant communication among all of the parts and each part relies on the neighbor above and below it.
Where are your muscles?
Muscles function properly when they are in an optimal position. Meaning muscles do not work well when they are either stretched out or very tight. When this occurs, the muscles will pull on the bones abnormally and place added stress on the discs and joints in our neck, back, and shoulders. If this occurs for a long period of time, our joints become inflamed and the discs may bulge.When the discs bulge in our spine, they now have tendency to irritate the nerves. The nerves that supply our shoulders, arms, and hands come from our neck. So, when we experience pain and discomfort in the shoulders, arms and/or hands, the problem may be in our neck or upper back area. The great news here is that simple changes to your daily routine will dramatically influence the aforementioned issues and hopefully prevent them from occurring in the first place!
The Upper back, Neck and Shoulders
The upper back, neck and shoulders as a whole is a very complex group of joint muscle and the motions that those joints go through are even more complex. Here is what people do not understand about way the neck and shoulders work and how to get relief from any ache or pain.The curvature of the lower spine plays a vital roll in the position and function of the upper spine, so in order to get the upper back neck and shoulder to feel right and function properly you will need to address the entire spine top to bottom.I know that sounds like a lot of work but knowing what is wrong and how to address the problem correctly is more than half the battle.
What to do about it
X-rays and MRIs can tell you what condition you have, but not why you have the condition. They cannot they tell you the strength or the flexibility of a muscle. They cannot tell you why your pelvis, spine neck and shoulders are the way they are, and they certainly cannot tell you how your muscles are out of balance.The only way to identify your imbalances is to go through a physical assessment designed to look specifically for muscle imbalances and associated postural dysfunctions. Once you know your postural dysfunctions, it is very easy to work backwards, because each dysfunction has a certain set of imbalances - almost like a syndrome. That is, it repeats itself consistently and predictably at any age, regardless of gender and regardless of activity level.The only way to correct your imbalances is with very targeted corrective stretches and exercises tailored to you and your condition. The good news is that even in the worst cases; our bodies are never that far out of alignment. But if you are in pain, those imbalances need to be addressed.
What not to do about it
I advise everyone not to start any exercise program without first knowing your imbalances. Here's why: If you start exercising the wrong muscles, you could strengthen a muscle group that is already too strong and worsen the imbalance. You could even stretch a muscle that does not need to be stretched and make your condition worse.You may think you're doing yourself a favor by going to the gym and doing yoga or Pilates. You may also think that doing a balanced workout is going to keep you healthy. But that is not the case when your muscles are already out of balance.Let's not forget about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Yes, you may need something to ease the pain but remember that drugs do nothing to help you treat the root cause of your condition not to mention they do nothing to help your body heal its self.
Immediate steps to take if you want relief or want to prevent your profession from killing you:
1. Stop working out until you know where your imbalances are. Doing a balanced workout is going to prolong your recovery and keep you in pain.
2. Stop doing the sport or any physical activity that you enjoy doing - running, swimming, golfing, yoga, or Pilates until your know where your imbalances are.
3. Seek professional help from someone who is trained in muscle imbalances and postural dysfunctions - and, no, not all health care professionals know about this approach.
4. Address your neck pain from many different perspectives because everyone is different and not all outcomes are going to be the same; look for an approach that addresses your condition from a physical, mental, and nutritional perspective.
5. Look for natural alternatives to your NSAIDs.
6. Keep an open mind about techniques you may not have heard of before, such as Muscle Balancing Therapy™
7. Do your homework. Learn about what works and what does not. When is spinal decompression appropriate for the neck? When will spinal manipulations give you the biggest benefit?
Truth is, your body can perform the grinding work of you job and everyday stress of your life but and you do not have to live and work in constant pain. But you cannot expect to get results if you do not take one, some or all of the corrective steps I have outlined.If you have neck pain and have been through the ringer, I know what you're going to say, "I've tried everything But will it work for me?...My case is different... I don't have the time... How can something so simple address such a complex issue?"It's simple restoring balance to your body is a universally excepted principle to achieving optimal health. That is what we teach our clients and that is what we show our clients.The muscle balancing therapy™ is not a workout that you have to do every day but a process of improving the rest of your life. You don't need to set time aside to bring your body back to balance but rather using moments in time to make corrections and when you know what to do it is simple and fast.