For most of us that live with chronic neck pain, we know all too well that it’s not a day or two experience. The pain impacts all aspects of our lives.
The battle to get an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan often seems endless. Unfortunately, for some, there are limited options to help relieve the incessant pain – which often leads to anxiety, depression and other physical conditions. Careers can be ruined, marriages and relationships suffer and life in general deteriorates. Just reading this list is probably enough to be a bummer!
FAMILY LIFE: WHAT TO TELL LOVED ONES…
Those family members who do not have pain issues have a really hard time understanding the situation. How could they? Every October, we celebrate Spinal Health Month – where the goal of educating loved ones to the “pain hell” that sufferers live with comes out in the open. The most important thing that chronic pain sufferers must do is be certain that their families fully understand the condition causing the pain – so loved ones can help manage the level of distress.
By having family members do chores that cause the most pain, the strain and subsequent pain is lessened. This is especially true with fibromyalgia, which is made much worse by fatigue and emotional stress.
GETTING THE FAMILY TO UNDERSTAND PAIN ISSUES…
If family members are struggling to accept the reality of a newly diagnosed disease, try taking them to medical appointments. Often, this will make them more understanding of the pain issues. Likewise, the pain sufferer often underestimates their pain and the effort needed to perform daily chores.
Having a family member sit in on the medical appointment may allow the doctor to get a clearer picture of the patient’s limitations… which hopefully leads to family being more willing to help out the suffering person.
Specific programs for those with pain disabilities may be available. Help may be available for tasks such as shopping, cleaning and personal hygiene. Patients must not be afraid to ask about their eligibility for these types of assistance.
CHRONIC NECK PAIN OFTEN LEADS TO DEPRESSION
If chronic pain is causing a case of the blues, this should not be ignored. When the problem lasts for more than about three weeks without any relief – this is classic depression. This problem must be addressed as soon as possible since pain and depression make each other worse. In other words, the more pain there is… the worse the depression gets… which leads to even more pain, etc. For those suffering, a framework of accepted limitations and goals helps to regain some independence and joie de vivre.
Studies have found that those afflicted often limit their activities unnecessarily because of the fear or perceived risks. By pushing the envelope within reason, the increased freedom of those affected leads to a higher quality of life while managing their chronic neck pain. Mindfulness training can make a world of difference in the quality of life for rheumatoid arthritis patients This is similar to classical meditations – a quick internet search will get all the information needed.
Medications for pain – such as muscle relaxants (e.g. Xanax) can also be an antidepressant… but often the dose taken is too low to help fight the depression. Patients therefore should not assume that their med doesn’t work for depression and instead, discuss their options with their doctor. Always remember that a common side effect of pain meds is depression! If the depression worsens shortly after starting a new medication, consult the doctor right away. Stopping a pain med cold-turkey is a bad idea… it may lead to withdrawal symptoms… which will make the depression and other side effects much worse. Tapering off these kinds of medications over a few days is always the best approach.
WORKING WITH CHRONIC NECK PAIN…
Let’s be real… feeling depressed, anxious, being sleep deprived and moody because of pain means work performance is likely to suffer unless the appropriate steps are taken.
Doctors may be able to assist with employment recommendations. Local employment agencies or the current employer may be can be incredibly helpful in making major and minor changes… which helps keep the patient independent and employed. Sometimes, a simple change such as an ergonomic chair or new desk or keyboard will make a world of difference. We’ll talk about this shortly.
Any needed changes in jobs must be dealt with quickly… before anxiety, depression and increased pain become disabling.
LESSER KNOWN TIPS TO EASE CHRONIC NECK PAIN
Some of our Stop Neck Pain Naturally clients have offered a wealth of tips using simple yet effective techniques for chronic neck pain management. Always consult a physician before beginning any new therapy. With that said, here are some things to try:
- Stay hydrated: the discs between the vertebrae in the spine require water to maintain disc height and spinal alignment which takes pressure off the spine. Each individual disc is about 80 percent water when we’re born and the amount decreases as we age and the discs degenerate. Drinking adequate, filtered water (never tap water with all its pollutants) may help prevent further degeneration of discs, which may relieve neck pain.
- 2. Be careful using a phone: one way of aggravating neck pain without even realizing it is to cradle the phone using the neck muscles while talking. This puts needless strain on the cervical spine. For more details, please see the article on “text neck” here.
3. Get in the pool: many neck pain sufferers feel that swimming has a therapeutic effect, especially for relieving inflammation – which provides quick pain relief and eases stiffness. Some activities to try include:
- getting in water up to neck level and simply move around.
- Squatting until the water reaches the chin, then moving to the right and left.
- Using a heated swimming pool.
- Finding a stroke that doesn’t cause pain. Depending on swimming skill level, try to do “Texas 25s” – either crawl or breaststroke – which is swimming the length of the pool without taking a breath. This is great aerobic exercise without straining the neck at all.
- For some, swimming is too strenuous on the neck. In that case, water therapy is advised. These are gentle pool-based exercises most effectively done in a heated pool.
- See a physical therapist: while it’s common to think of PT as a treatment aimed at reducing pain from an injury, PT can have other benefits… including strengthening the weak areas of the neck through targeted exercise, identifying secondary pain causes and teaching how to avoid further injury.
- Acupuncture: this can have mixed results and doesn’t work well for everyone. Oftentimes, the skill of the acupuncturist determines how well it works – so choose wisely.
- Use a neck-supporting chair: maintaining good posture is a great way to keep neck pain under control. A headrest can help to keep the cervical spine in a neutral position, so consider getting an office chair with one – and using it! Also make a point to use the headrest while driving and with recliners.
- Use ice therapy in unusual places: oftentimes, neck pain is accompanied with nagging headaches, numbness, tingling in the back of the head or shoulders. Some have found that putting ice on different areas of the body (between the thumb and index finger, on the bone behind the ear or on the indent in the middle of the eyebrow) relieves pain.
- Increase magnesium intake: when neck muscles become tight, strained or sprained, neck pain increases. Increasing the amount of magnesium in the diet aids in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Try to eat more fruits, veggies and beans. A supplement of magnesium citrate at 450 mg daily is helpful. Magnesium oil sprayed on tense muscles is very effective to relieve muscle cramps.
- Use a water pillow: the advantage of these pillows is that it’s easy to adjust the firmness. If regular pillows seem to aggravate neck pain, these are definitely worth a try.
CONCLUSION: Experimenting with changes in lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on chronic neck pain. Don’t be afraid to talk to family about pain issues and activities that make pain worse. Think outside the box and try some of the tips in this article. The worst treatment is to just accept pain – this leads to anxiety and depression – which makes pain even worse.
PS: Learn more ways to deal with chronic neck pain. We are offering a FREE ebook called “5 Natural Ways to Relieve Your Neck Pain Right Now”. Just look for the signup sheet below.