It has happened to most of us! (usually in times of stress)
You wake up in the morning with a sore neck wondering what on earth you were dreaming about to wake up in this state. Then the stress kicks in, the googling begins and off you go down the rabbit hole. But what can you do to help yourself in this situation?
Firstly, try not to panic! This is easier said than done. Panic and stress heightens the sympathetic nervous system, your fight or flight system. This increases the sensitivity of your nerves so they become more sensitive to pain and perceive the pain as more dangerous than it actually is. Keeping calm will have the opposite effect.
Taking long deep breaths will help to calm the sympathetic nervous system and assist with pain modulation. A common breathing technique used for this purpose is: inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. The long exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, having a relaxing effect.
The sooner you see your osteo the better. They’ll be able to assess your neck and determine the cause of pain. They will educate you, provide you with hands-on treatment and exercises personalised to your needs. This usually leads to a reduction in pain and an improvement in movement.
While you’re waiting for your appointment you can place a wheat-bag, heat pack or hot water bottle on your neck and shoulders. This will help to relax the muscles in the area. Reducing the tightness in these muscles will often assist in decreasing the pain. If you don’t have one of these items, standing under the shower with the water running down your neck and back can have a similar effect.
If your pain is manageable, you can perform some gentle neck movements in a pain-free or comfortable range. You can move your head from side to side, rotate the neck, and look up and down. These exercises are done to encourage movement in the neck. If this is too painful then cease the exercise & remember to move other areas of the body gently & pain free to remind the body “you are ok”.
Let us know how you go implementing these self-management strategies!
Dr Lee Hoogeveen (Osteopath)
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