Friday, March 1, 2013

Proper Neck Care


I’m sitting here literally in a neck brace, AGAIN – and it got me thinking about how to take care of neck injuries. I worked at a chiropractic office providing physical therapy before adjustments, and learned a lot on the subject.

So many people came through our doors in massive pain, and in a lot of cases, turned out they were making it worse. There are definitely tricks to making neck issues clear up quick, or prolonging them for weeks at a time.

My Issue
I am not sure if anything particular ever happened to my neck. I’ve had the same problem for over a decade. I remember waking up with a stiff neck as early as middle school. Now as an adult, I’ll randomly feel a kink, sometimes even a slipping sensation, and that’s it. I’ll be messed up for weeks at a time without proper care. My doctor told me that my neck being slender and a little long makes me prone. I’d say I have about 2 incidences a year.

Diagnosing
Make sure you speak to your doctor if you have chronic issues, and especially if this is your first issue. There could be a lot going on in there – slipped disks, degenerated disks, herniation, fixation, or something very serious like meningitis. If you ever have a sudden stiff neck accompanied by a fever, or neck issues with no injury, have it looked at right away. If it isn’t the norm, always see your doctor the first time, and always make the time to get some sort of physical if you have chronic issues.

Prevention
So you know nothing serious is going on, you’re just in the same boat as me with a slippery neck that likes to act up. Now you have to try and remember your neck at all times, just like lifting with your legs to protect your back.

Work on good posture, if you have hair that you fling around {common with a swooped bang} you will want to consider a clip or new hairstyle, be extra careful in the shower being mindful of what you are doing with your neck when you shampoo and condition, don’t pick things up in quick jerking motions, be mindful rolling around at night, support your neck when you sit up in bed – keep your head on your neck at all times {pun wasn’t intended, but I’m totally laughing}!

So You’ve Gone and Done it Anyway! {Ice vs. Heat}
Yeah, it’s going to happen. This time around, I let my mind wander in the shower and bit the dust. You are going to want to use ice, NOT HEAT! People always run for heat because it feels good. Well I hate to tell you, but it makes the swelling worse. The function of heat is to pull in new fluids to flush the area and promote healing. Um, YEAH…you don’t want more fluid where fluid is already rushing. The majority of stiffness and pain is caused by the swelling.

Use ice. Ice pushes the fluid out, helping to initially keep the swelling down. Rotate ice for 10-20 minutes at a time, a few times a day. If you are still experiencing stiffness and pain after the initial swelling is gone {typically 5-7 days}, then you can start rotating in heat. Every other application use heat, then ice – rotate, rotate, rotate. After 2 weeks you can start spoiling yourself with heat only to promote healing. Go ahead – you deserve it.

A Good Neck Brace
You’ll want one. They are a total lifesaver. They’ll cut my initial pain days from a full week, to 2-3 days max. It feels stupid at first, but you don’t have to wear it in public. Wear it at home all the time. The break feels amazing. You can still work, most likely won’t need pain killers, live a normal life with a neck brace. A few years ago I had to wear one at work. I dressed it up by slipping over an argyle knee high sock that I cut and sewed on. Made me feel less hideous.

In a Nut Shell
That’s about it. With good prevention you can cut your incidences down to one or two times a year, or less. With proper care, you can shorten initial pain to 2-3 days and the entire incident to under a week. Stay mindful and stock up on the basics, a good neck brace and an ice pack and you should be good to go!